Blessed with an inquisitive mind and a desire to improve the lives of women, Jaydeep Mandal has always been an entrepreneur at heart. What makes him stand out is his passion to bring a change. Therefore, Aakar Innovations was conceived in 2011 as a social enterprise.
While in college, Jaydeep Mandal joined the Honeybee Network and worked closely with Prof Anil Gupta (Founder of Honeybee Network). He travelled across India to identify and document various innovations and entrepreneurs. In 2010, while still in college completing his MBA, Jaydeep started working on a sanitary pad project and a mini production unit was set up in a village in Uttarakhand. A team of ten (which also has volunteers from the UK) worked relentlessly to make the unit work while engaging with the community to understand the issue around menstruation and encourage safe practices.
New Method & Business Model
These ten months made him realise the extent of the issue and thus pave the way for Aakar Innovations. While Jaydeep Mandal was involved with several projects/ innovations before this assignment working with the community and understanding the demand versus current availability, he knew that there was tremendous work to be done.
Based on learnings from the field, Jaydeep Mandal realised the need for a new method and business model to address the issue of menstrual hygiene for the bottom of the pyramid. He spent the next one year visiting and interacting with various entrepreneurs who had a low-cost solution for making sanitary napkins. Being a student, he did not have the resources to travel everywhere but his passion fuelled him to make do with whatever he had or could manage. Those who he could not meet in person he pursued via email/ video calls.
Aakar Innovations started as a college project and was registered in August 2011 as an organisation. The first 16 months were spent building the machine, setting business and operating models, product technicalities, and specifications and challenges. While working in Afghanistan, where Jaydeep conducted a month-long study in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province with Aga Khan Foundation, he became fully aware of the challenges of disposal. While interacting with the community women he found out that disposal was one of the biggest challenges as well a hindrance for women using sanitary napkins. Being part of closed communities and facing shame and secrecy around menstruation, women found it challenging to dispose of menstrual waste openly due to fear of visibility or animals tearing it apart. This challenge motivated Jaydeep Mandal to seek an eco-friendly solution. After months of research, in 2013 Aakar launched ‘Anandi’- India’s first and only certified 100 per cent compostable napkin thus revolutionising the sanitary napkin market. Since then, the innovation has been under constant innovation and every step takes the organisation and technology ahead.
Jaydeep was faced with many roadblocks, a societal taboo around menstruation being the biggest. Getting women to talk about the problems as well as low level of awareness in society was one of the biggest challenges faced by Jaydeep and his team.
Initial funds to get an enterprise going took some amount of moving around, putting together a motivated team of like-minded people who would stand up for this cause and also some national challenges faced.
Export and Sales of Products
Aakar Innovation and Aakar Social have been installing machines in Bharat and Africa for the past eleven years. The sanitary pad range started with eco-plus getting approved by the UN. This was followed by a premium range of 100 per cent organic pads under Anandi premium. Anandi Athletic mid-range product line is available in retail shops.
Aakar operates on a sustainable community-led model that empowers women and communities to participate in the production and distribution of affordable, eco-friendly sanitary products. This approach not only supports women’s empowerment but also fosters local economic development and self-sufficiency.
Aakar embodies circular economy principles by sourcing materials, creating compostable products, minimising waste, empowering local communities, and promoting sustainable, eco-friendly menstrual hygiene solutions, all while prioritising women’s well-being and environmental conservation.
Corporate Off: 1007, Mayuresh Square, Sec-15, CBD Belapur, Navi Mumbai – 400614, India.
Talking of his future vision, Jaydeep says he wants to create a brand that makes a difference and empowers as many women as possible. A healthier body and a healthier planet are the key goals.
Resilience and the ability to stay on course despite all challenges, he feels the key secret of his success along with the team of 150+ employees at Aakar Innovation who embark on the value of Aakar and make it what it is today.