Being the Change - Deepanjali Dalmia talks with You & I

An entrepreneur with a mission, Deepanjali Dalmia has brought a paradigm shift in the women’s hygiene scenario in the country. Her business idea is not only filling the yawning gap of hygiene and sustainability, but is also raising awareness of the importance of making healthy choices for personal care. With Heyday, India’s first biodegradable and organic sanitary napkin, she has transformed natural plant-based fibres into healthy alternatives to plastic pads. An alum of Carmel Convent School and Columbia University’s Barnard College, Deepanjali chats with us about how Heyday began and how it’s taking shape.

How did the idea of sustainable sanitary napkins develop?
In the feminine hygiene sector, we haven’t seen much innovation in decades. Although sanitary napkins have improved over the years, the new products on the shelf were only variants of sizes, wings, absorbency, perfume, and so on. When I initially started testing the current range of products in the Indian market, I was appalled to find that 90% of the commercially-available synthetic sanitary napkins are made from harmful plastics. The other raw materials include dioxin, antibacterial agents, bleaches, perfumes, and a host of chemicals that can easily enter a woman’s bloodstream through long exposure to her sensitive vaginal skin. Not only can this cause discomfort, rashes, allergies, skin infections, and UTIs, but it can also put them at the risk of cervical or ovarian cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, and other life-threatening ailments.

The industry is monopolised by giants, and no manufacturer informs consumers about the ingredients used in their products on the packaging. There had to be an alternative to using synthetic pads. And so I decided to take the challenge upon myself to develop an all-new, safe, and natural sanitary napkin. I assembled a small team of young minds, and we experimented with a number of natural raw materials with constant building and unbuilding alongside researchers in laboratories. We held the final prototype of Heyday in our hands after two and a half years.

Since this is a niche industry, it must be necessary to innovate constantly. What’s your mantra to keep that going?
Most definitely. We have an R&D team concentrating on finding new product ingredients and testing prototypes to see if we can develop better products. After the natural sanitary napkin, we have developed biodegradable and organic baby diapers and panty liners, too. These products will be launched in the first quarter of 2019. We strive to keep our product quality consistent, and change the personal hygiene sector in India by introducing better and safer products.

With the increasing awareness of sustainable living, a few other sustainable napkin companies have sprung up. How do you set yourself apart from the rest?
In India, health regulations are not stringent enough to ensure the authenticity of products. A lot of new companies claim to be sustainable but contain synthetic raw materials. Heyday products are manufactured internationally and go through many rounds of testing and certification to be approved for sale. We use corn and bamboo that are kept away from chemicals for growth, making our products completely organic. What sets us apart from the competition is our pricing, Heyday pads can be bought by a middle-class woman at Rs 99/- for a pack of seven napkins. For such high quality, women are able to afford a better product for their bodies and the environment.

What do you find most frustrating about what you do? And what’s most rewarding?
The fact that only 12% of women in India use personal hygiene products is very frustrating and saddening. When we hear back from customers who have been rid of their rashes, skin infections, and years of discomfort simply by using Heyday, we feel honoured that we have been able to make a difference. We are also propelled to do more and reach a larger population.

What are your hobbies and interests?
I like playing the piano; it helps me calm my mind and zone out. I read a fair amount and enjoy playing board games, watching Ted talks, and spending time with my family.

If you were given a chance to change a business law, what would it be?
I would make the healthcare regulations in India more foolproof and structured.

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
I like to go for a run to rejuvenate, and I also enjoy yoga when I need something relaxing.        – as told to Sumana