PeeBuddy, the first Indian startup to have come up with a product that lets women to stand and pee in a country that still lacks basic sanitation amenities, is all set to raise its first round from a clutch of investors next month. Over the last two years, the company has been run on a bootstrapped mode.
The company wants to use the funds to increase production capacity, expand distribution network across the country and in research and development activities.
Deep Bajaj, who founded PeeBuddy’s holding company First Step Digital, accidentally came up with the idea while on a roadtrip with his family friends. “While we ate and drank all along the way, the ladies would not drink at all worried about the fact that they would not get any toilet facilities on the way. We had to stop at almost all the gas filling stations so that my wife and other female friends in the group can use the toilet, which were again way too dirty,” Bajaj said, adding that the trip was a kind of an eye-opener for him about the sanitation issues that women go through and also at the same time it was an “Eureka moment”.
After months of research, Bajaj found out that there existed a similar product way back in 1919 in the US, which was a funnel like device made of plastic. However, it did not take off for reasons unknown, Bajaj said, adding that his device is a funnel-like disposaable tube made of cardboard that allows women to stand and pee and not be worried of getting infected with UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) while using public toilets. The company has also filed an IP for the product.
According to publicly available industry reports, in India about 636 million households lack toilets. And, toilets for women are far fewer than those for men. For example, in the national capital, there are about 3,712 urinals for men and a mere 269 for women. The urinals in malls and other public places are not cleaned properly exposing about 50 per cent women to life threatening gynaecological and urological infections.
Bajaj, a serial entreprenuer who ran an events company, quit his profitable venture to start First Step Digital in April 2014 and his first product was PeeBuddy.
In the last two years, the company has sold about 100,000 packs of PeeBuddy, which is being retailed at a price of Rs 18 per piece. Bajaj says that while efforts are on to bring down the price, the product is not being marketed for daily usage but for women-on-the-go (trekkers, cyclists, marathoners, office goers), pregnant women, women with arthritis and other renal-related issues or obesity.
Bajaj told BusinessLine that the target is to double the sales this year and that the company is in talks with all the big organised healthcare retail chains in metros in this regard. “Retailing a product like this was not easy. Many retailers just shooed me away saying that it was gross. But as soon as we started promoting it as a medical product, we saw good traction,” Bajaj said, adding that outdoor events like Marathons and Sunburns have shown interest in long term partnerships.
Bajaj has invested close to Rs 1.5 crore from his personal savings in his new venture and with the new funding, the company is aiming to be the country’s first initimate hygiene product brand. The company is also meanwhile importing products like sweatpads, intimate wipes and bio-degradable disposable sanitary pads and tampons. Bajaj added that the company is getting enquiries from several countries and that it has delivered its first consignment to Cyprus and the second, in London.