I know of girls who had never heard about menstruation until they got their first period and boys who understood menstruation only once they had a girlfriend. This is how aware our so called educated society is. Many parents and teachers find it difficult to discuss the topic of menstruation and only discuss it when they are compelled to.
Two NID post graduates – Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul identified this problem of lack of information about menstruation and all issues surrounding it and decided to represent it in the most friendly manner. Thus, Menstrupedia was launched. Menstrupedia is an effective visual platform to talk to girls and boys about menstruation.
The Ahmedabad Blog connected with the Menstrupedia team to know more about Menstrupedia and their experiences in setting up a social enterprise.
Give us a brief about Menstrupedia
Menstrupedia is a friendly guide to periods which helps girls and women to stay healthy and active during their periods.
It’s about helping girls and women understand about menstruation in an easy way, in a ways that can help them eliminate the sense of shame and taboo associated with the subject. There is a very basic and essential information about menstruation that every girl should be provided with so that she is better prepared to take care of herself during her cycles and we want to make this essential information entertaining easy to understand and accessible to girls around the world. Menstrupedia is a definitive step to shatter the myths and misunderstandings surrounding menstruation for ages.
What is the thought process behind the brand name
Every essential information about menstruation: Menstrupedia
What made you choose the subject of menstruation?
At NID, when Aditi and Tuhin got into a relationship. Tuhin came to know more about the pain and inconvenience that girls and women go through every month during their periods and how they are often treated impure because of it. It wouldn’t be very hard to imagine what a young girl goes through in the absence of a proper source of information on the subject and on top of that being branded impure by her own family. Aditi had herself experienced and dealt with menstruation related problems in her life and had always felt a need for trustworthy and easily accessible information on this subject. This might be a situation not just in India but in many other countries as well. And we saw a lot of design scope to take up this gap of information as communication designers.
What started out as a thesis project at NID has now become Menstrupedia. Aditi had taken up a yearlong project to study the level of awareness about menstruation in young girls. Though it was Aditi’s project, Tuhin was closely involved in it from the beginning as it is not just a problem of women health and hygiene but also a communication design problem. At the end of the project we found a need for an appropriate guide about menstruation for young girls. So we created a prototype where we explained menstruation through comic medium using characters and stories and tested it with young girls. We received a very positive response. So, one inspiration was this that what we are doing at Menstrupedia has a thorough yearlong research to back it.
A comic was developed to test the medium. We took this comic in to schools in Mehsana, Gandhinagr, Ahmedabad and Ranchi. We received a very positive response from the girls, parents as well as teachers.
After working 3 years in e-learning industry and having saved some money as an initial investment, we quit our jobs and started working full time on Menstupedia since August 2013. Rajat Mittal (3rd founding member) who is a graduate from DAIICT and a post Graduate in Computers from Arizona State University, Joined us in 2013.With his technical skills, our team was pretty much complete. Menstrupedia website was launched late last year.
Menstrupedia’s various tools and platforms:
The Quick Guide: http://menstrupedia.com/quickguide
This is an illustrated reference guide that provides essential information related to menstruation in a concise and easy to understand manner. This would eventually cover the following topics: Puberty and Menstruation, Physiology of menstruation, Hygiene and Management, Nutrition, Menstrual pain management, Menstrual myths, Pregnancy, For parents and educators, about menstruation for males, HIV and AIDS. Out of these only the first three topics have been covered till now. Once completed and validated, this guide would be translated into different languages. All sections of the guide would be available as free downloadable PDFs that one can download and share with others.
The Q & A: http://questions.menstrupedia.com/
This is a place where people can ask questions related to menstruation or any other related topic. The answers are from the community members themselves just like in a regular forum. But unlike a forum the focus is more on finding an answer to a posed question, rather than engaging in a discussion. As the time passes by, the number of well answered questions in the Q&A section would increase and cater to ever increasing number of users. We encourage users to cite proper sources for their answers unless they are themselves professional medical practitioners. Though moderation is actively done, Menstrupedia does not hold responsibility for any content in this section or any situation that might result from it. We have collaborated with Dr. Bhide has an experience of more than 20 years of experience as Obstetrician & Gynecologist. He is the medical expert who answers questions in the Q and A section.
Menstrupedia blog is a completely collaborative space where people from all walks of life write share their stories and experience on menstruation and issues related to it. These articles are shared widely in the online space and have opened up many discussions and conversations around the subject of menstruation.
What is the USP of Menstrupedia and how is it different from the information existing on the internet
- Menstrupedia depicts each and every topic with a relevant illustration. Does that make it any better? Yes it does. This alone has four benefits:
- An associated Illustration increases the recall value of a given article. There by increasing the likelihood of the readers remembering and actually putting that information to practical use when needed. Most of us would remember the vivid illustrations from a storybook that we read as a kid much more than the text that was written in it. Most of the stories from the storybooks that we still remember are those that had beautiful illustrations in them.
- The illustrations make the content share worthy. People feel empowered to spread awareness about menstruation by sharing the content.
- An illustrative approach diminishes if not eliminates the sense of shame associated with the subject that prevents people from speaking about it. Because of this, elders feel comfortable in sharing the illustrated content with younger sisters or daughters
- Being illustrative, it is more appealing to the young girls, who are supposed to be the primary users of the website.
- Menstrupedia as a site is totally dedicated to a single topic, menstruation, and shall remain that way. Hence over the time it would become more relevant and trustworthy compared to other alternatives.
- The Q&A section over the time would become a huge repository of well answered questions that would in itself become an invaluable resource on this topic.
- Translation of the content in various languages, Comic book and the mobile app would further differentiate Menstrupedia from other alternatives existing in the internet.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Tuhin and Aditi both quit their jobs and were working full time on Menstrupedia and had invested all of their savings (roughly 2.5 lakhs) in it. Even after cost-cutting the savings allowed us to sustain for just one year and we had to raise more funds before that so that we could sustain till a revenue stream is in place. Investors were turning us down as they believed sustaining Menstrupedia through selling printed comics is a risky business proposition. Therefore raising funds was an ever growing challenge for us right from the very beginning. Developing the website to its current state took us till January and given the costs of bulk printing, we weren’t left with enough funds to develop the Menstrupedia comic and get it printed, leave alone the distribution logistics that would follow.
We believe that what we are creating is much needed and will help so many young girls. From the very beginning we have been receiving overwhelming response and huge support from numerous people on our various social media channels. Just two months before we would run out of funds, as a last resort we turned to our supporters for raising funds. On May 20th we launched a crowd funding campaign to raise funds for developing the Menstrupedia comic. As of 25th July, 149 of our supporters have contributed 4.7 Lakhs to help us make the comic and cover all the other costs involved in printing and logistics.
What are your future plans? Are you planning to expand your website?
Yes we would expand the website content to cover the following topics:
- About Menstruation for Parents and Educators
- About menstruation for Boys
- Pain Management
- HIV and AIDS
Apart from the website, we are developing a comic on Menstruation. The comic is meant for young girls (9-11 years old). It introduces the concept of menstruation and menstrual hygiene management through interesting characters and scenarios that they can relate to. The comic will be available as a printed book as well as an audio visual narrative on digital devices. Initially we are catering only to Indian audience but subsequently we would modify the content to suit different cultures across the globe.
Parents can purchase this comic and gift it to their daughters. We will also collaborate with schools to make this comic available to girl students.
Do you plan to take your venture to schools in Ahmedabad? If yes, how?
Yes, the prototype of the comic that we made is already being used by NGO and schools in UP, MP, Patna, Delhi and in Ladakh. We would also be taking workshops for school girls.
One piece of advice for Amdavadi entrepreneurs
- Plan well in advance for raising funds to support the venture and have backup plans as well.
- Conduct extensive research to understand the user needs properly as this will form a strong foundation to the concept. Keep the focus on the user need rather than the product. The product is supposed to change and adapt to the user needs.
- Use social media to aggressively market the concept and connect with your supporters.
With a team of dynamic and passionate people with complementary skills, Menstrupedia aims at delivering informative and entertaining content through different media. We wish Menstrupedia the very best for the future!