Kannur has shed a lot of blood over politics. Nobody could do anything about political violence in Kannur for decades. But, here is a woman from Kannur who has successfully blocked the monthly blood flow of a different kind and made big bucks.
While menstruation has been a taboo topic in India since Adam and Eve, Christy Jobin, a young mother from the land of political murders, saw a business opportunity in the menstrual mishaps and messes.
With all big brands of sanitary napkins adding to the environmental pollution, whispers inside her for an eco-friendly pad forced her to look for a better alternative in 2014. Thus, Christy, a fashion designer of government-owned cooperative society Hantex, decided to quit her job and set up Looms and Weaves, a shop selling handicraft items. Even though she set up the store in Thiruvananthapuram, her focus was mainly on helping Kannur's weaving community, which was leading a miserable life. This compassion for them drove her to launch a unit to make menstruation pads from handloom fabrics in Kannur and sell it at her shop in Thiruvananthapuram.
Talking to Onmanorama on International Women's Day, Christy said she herself had allergies and skin irritation for a long time after using regular sanitary napkins. It took a lot of time for her to do research and find the right fabric and material to make the cloth pads. She herself used many alternative fabric in order to make her own cloth pads. Christy says it was not difficult for her to pick up handloom fabric as it was the best for the skin.
However, it wasn’t a smooth sailing. There came a point when Christy decided to close her shop but one of her friends asked her to sell handloom products online. She approached Amazon and today the firm's revenue stands at Rs 10 lakh a month. The young entrepreneur became so good at it that she recently became the online retail giant's best seller in Kerala.
“I took the regular sanitary napkin as a model and carved the shape out of it. That’s how I made my first cloth pad. The feeling was liberating and difficult to put in words,” says Christy. “I started giving the cloth pads to my friends and relatives and improved it based on their feedback,” she added.
Christy decided to make more cloth pads in her weaving units in Kannur. However, they couldn't produce enough to match the demand. Soon, a Pondicherry-based NGO approached her with the idea of producing and selling the pads. “I never thought people would come and buy this but the product was moving and the demand too increased. Surprisingly, it was very difficult to meet the demand and I took the NGO’s help for its production,” says Christy.
She has decided to shift production to her units in Kannur and Thiruvananthapuram. She taught her staff how to make it and will soon start selling the pads under Looms and Weaves label. Her Kannur unit has only women staff except the cutting master and Thiruvananthapuram branch has only two male employees.
She sells more than 100 pads a week and has regular buyers at her shop. Christy says many tourists who visit the city come to her shop once in a while after hearing about it. A set of three small pads costs Rs 340 and they have a pack of pads for a full menstrual cycle. She also sells trendy hand-weaved pad kits and pouches which look like a small purse.
A woman who was well aware of the nitty-gritty of weaving from her childhood, Christy started the shop in Thiruvananthapuram after marrying Jobin, who supported her throughout the ups and downs of her career. Looms and Weaves has products ranging from handloom clothes, spices produced by women farmers of north Kerala, banana fibre bags, home furnishing made by women from several backward handloom societies from various parts of Kerala, towels, bed sheets and much more.
Her shop even gives a space for financially backward women to keep their small-scale products and get an earning from it. “I still sell the product of a woman whom I met during a trip to Delhi who sold beautiful hand-made sling bags on the streets. She is highly skilled but had no platform to sell her stuff,” says Christy showing a well-crafted white soft bag.
With more people understanding the importance of cloth pads, Christy has decided to expand production of the napkins and she feels her efforts will not be wasted.