Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Deep Bajaj - Redefining Female Hygiene With Pee Buddy!

Deep Bajaj has business running in his blood, literally. He took up his first job while in college and was selling educational packages door to door. He loved every moment of it and was earning as much as Rs.6000 per month which was enough to sail through his monthly expenses and also pay for his bike’s EMI. He had seen his dad put in 18 to 20 hours daily in his business and was inspired to do the same. Deep also sold insurance for many months and the entrepreneurial bug bit him soon enough and he started a small domestic call centre selling motor & general insurance which too did pretty well but he shut that down after 3 years as he got admission in  Australian National University for post graduation. He was in Australia for one and half years and did two part-time jobs a day besides his college education. Deep shares “Mornings were spent in classes, afternoons were dedicated to working in a mobile store and evenings, I used to work as a waiting staff at an Indian-Pakistani Restaurant - that was the best part as we used to get Indian food”!

On his return to India, he decided to get into events full time with his business partner Faheem and started Thyme Advertising. He did events for the next five years where they did  BTL activation for clients like CitiBank, Carlsberg, Tata Indicom, BPCL etc. Deep exited Thyme in December, 2010 to scale another start-up with his wife- selling handmade carpets to the best of hotels in Middle East and India .Deep adds “The next four years, we did some of the best residential, hospitality and other premium projects across the world. My wife still runs that business. Alongside, the entrepreneurial bug got me to back a couple of startups in the education (CA/CS/CWA coaching) & the holiday home spaces. While the coaching center is still running , the holiday home project did not pan out as expected”.

Product Conceptualisation.
Deep says that they began with four members, two left and then it was just he and his co-founder Mohit. Their third co-founder Deepak came on board in November last year. These three apart, there are 18 more members who help them improvise and market the product. They also have two women co-founders who work part time for them now and but would soon come on board full time once the entire range is launched.

The Birth Of Pee Buddy.
Deep was on a  road trip in 2013  when the idea dawned on him to start something in the hygiene & health space. Deep elaborates “The idea of women using a funnel to stand & pee like men was suggested by a friend’s wife on that road trip as we saw that there was a dearth of clean toilets all along. That thought stayed with me and after I got back, I started the research and realized that the first patent on FUD (female urination device) went back to the 1920s. In India, there was none in the business. Hence, I decided to follow this calling and hired a couple of designers, came up with multiple designs, tested them and eventually boiled down to the current design of Pee Buddy which we patented in 2015. We wanted to give each woman the choice and the freedom to decide what was clean for her and what was not. For those suffering from medical conditions like arthritis etc. and even pregnancies, the idea was to empower them to travel & live better and safer”. Pee Buddy was launched in 2014. It is India’s first disposable, portable, patent protected female urination device using which women can stand & pee in any kind on toilet. It is cardboard based and can be easily carried in one’s bag. Deep adds “Common toilets are seldom clean, whether it is in general travel like rail, road, long haul flights or even events like marathons,treks etc. Women are either forced to wipe the seat before use (which is disgusting) or make chairs to avoid skin contact or hold urination which can cause kidney stones. In my own life I had seen how my wife (during her pregnancy) and my mother during her arthritis/knee replacement surgery had just stopped stepping out as they weren’t confident of the toilet, and sitting & standing often was a challenge. Pee Buddy is useful for pregnant women and those with any spinal injuries, obesity issues or sufferers of arthritis.
Pee Buddy’s Impact.
Deep informs "Over 250,000 users have experienced Pee Buddy and the best of doctors recommend its use during travel especially to stay away from infections”. The total investment till date is Rs.1.3 crores and they are now averaging Rs.15 lakhs per month.
Pee Buddy was featured amongst the Top 30 ‘Innovations’ in Economic Times & Catapooolt’s ongoing challenge and have secured a place in the Limca Book of World Records.
The Stanchart And Airtel Marathon Deal. 
Due to his events background, Deep had seen the condition of  Porta toilets in outdoor events. He understood the challenges organisers and participants/ guests faced during events and he approached many big event companies but majority of them were not interested or wanted it free of cost! Deep and his partner did not give up and kept their spirits high and worked hard to spread the word. They finally got a response from Procam’s Mumbai office in January 2015 ; Procam are organizers of world renowned marathons including Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, Airtel Delhi Marathon & TCS Bangalore Marathon. Deep says “Their CEO is one of the best leaders I have met who instantly acknowledged the problem and solution and since then, there has been no looking back. They are all about customer’s interest and provide Pee Buddy to all women participants”.  
Challenges Faced.
Deep informs “Initially it was tough and we faced rejection a couple of times but there were better things in store. Some forward thinking chains like NewU, LeMarche, WH Smith etc. started keeping Pee Buddy. Then, for the first year, we were largely just one product Pee Buddy with low presence, lower sales and hence had no money at times to even pay the rent, having invested over 80 lakhs. Some key members also left due to the challenges faced. That was a low phase but we worked on this by expanding into other products and kept going. A very dear friend from Mumbai pitched in as an investor and our family and friends kept the faith”. Deep informs “ Pee Buddy is only one of our products, all other products are equally unique and solve pressing issues which women face everyday”. 
Future Plans. 
The response has been great though advertising is still a challenge. Deep elaborates on his plans “We are building India’s probably first brand offering intimate hygiene care products & services for women under our brand Sirona. The range offers unique solutions to problems which affect women but are either ignored (perhaps due to low demand) or are neglected. We are on a  mission to solve female health and hygiene issues”. 
They want to focus on sanitation, discreet & hygienic disposal issues, intimate hygiene and menstrual care products. Deep informs “Sanitary waste is toxic. Not only is it a toxic waste when it reaches land fills but even in transit (from loo to waste management facility), the distance it travels is huge and more often than not, the loose plastic or newspaper gives in and pads/tampons/condoms are left out in the open. We created an eco-friendly product which is tamper proof and bio-degradable and ensures hygienic disposal. Our menstrual care range through our venture ‘Being Juliet’ offers a unique service which delivers sanitary pads, tampons and panty liners 5 days before the due dates, month on month with special gifts”. They also offer FDA approved applicator tampons and herbal period pain relief patch muscle cramps and pain. All these are being marketed under the Sirona brand. Deep shares “We have identified 5 more areas which need immediate attention and we are working towards the same with new product launches. Apart from our own website, we are available on Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon and many stores. We intend expanding to ten key cities with our entire range by stocking in physical stores but in any case, the product is available online and delivery is effected across India”. “ As regards other business plans, my friend Vishal has joined me in the home health care space and we recently launched Pramati Care”. 
Advice To Entrepreneurs.
When Deep shared his ideas on the business with his friends, he was advised to run it as a charity or hobby. He says “My only advice to everyone is – any business which you start is your baby, you have spent months and years in shaping it. Unless you believe in it with all your heart and show respect for the same, no one else will. Believe in your idea and others too will”. 

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