Two friends, Shailesh and Veerender, opened a retail store devoted to women hygiene needs. They named the store ‘Vayas Sakhi’ (वयस् सखी) It caters to the needs of women. The store has almost all the products for below neck and above thigh. The specialty of the store is that it has an all-women staff. The store is exclusive women range and offer privacy for a woman to shop her hygiene and intimate product requirements. The retail store provides a very comfortable environment to the customers.
To get a better understanding of their idea, aim, struggles, and vision behind opening this retail store, we interviewed founders of Vayas Sakhi – Mr. Shailesh and Mr. Veerender.
Question: Could you please share a bit about your background?
Mr. Veerender: I have worked over 20 years in the retail sector. During my professional journey I had been associated with brands like FoodWorld, Dabur NewU, Reliance, Metro Cash & Carry and Heritage Dairy. Coming from a hardcore retail background. I met Shailesh while working at Dabur. Later, I moved to a company known as Heritage in Hyderabad. After leaving my job at Heritage, Shailesh and I realized we wanted to start something of our own.
Mr. Shailesh: Coming from hardcore background with FMCG , Sales, Distribution, and Brand development. I have worked at various companies like Subiksha, Coca-Cola, Paras Pharmaceuticals, Parle Products, Banjaras, etc. Our experience made us realize that a combination of retail and FMCG would be an excellent combination for setting up a new business in retail.
Q: How did the idea of starting a Vayas Sakhi come to your mind?
Mr. Veerender: While working with Heritage, I was running a restaurant parallelly. During that period, Shailesh was working on his startup – Ishva Organics, since 2017, I resigned from Heritage as I wanted to take care of my restaurant. Unfortunately, during the lockdown period, it got closed. Initially, Shailesh and I worked dedicatedly for Ishva Organics. Later we realized it was already four years old venture and had a good presence across all retail chains. So, we thought to start something new which can address the needs and can also bring some change and awareness in society.
Inspiration of Vayas Sakhi
Prime Minister Modi’s campaign of becoming self-reliant “atmanirbhar” was quite popular during that time. Taking our inspiration from that, we decided to do something for societal welfare. Both of us thought of opening a retail store that would only cater to the needs of women. After various brainstorming sessions, we named our store ‘Vayas Sakhi.’ It is a Sanskrit word. Vayas means ‘age‘ and Sakhi means ‘friend.’ It would be a place that would be like a friend to the women.
Q: What was your idea behind opening a Vayas Sakhi only for women?
Mr. Shailesh: We call ourselves a mature and advanced society. But for addressing issues related to women, we have miles to cover. We observed women face so many problems while buying products for their menstrual needs.
Women feel anxious while asking for sanitary napkins directly. Many shopkeepers, while giving sanitary napkins, wrap them in black cover and then hand it over. Lack of knowledge and awareness leads to other kinds of health problems as well. For example, many womendevelop rashes while using these sanitary napkins. They don’t even feel comfortable enough to share their problems with their husbands. Most of the time, rashes heal up by themselves. In rare cases, they can cause infections that can also lead to death. We wanted to provide an environment that would provideprivacy and comfort to women. It is a safe space where women can openly talk about their needs and problems and then buy the right product.
Q: What all products are available at your store?
Mr. Veerender: We focused on the range which address below neck and above thigh area with respect to hygiene and wellness. The range of products are – sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, tampons, bikini hair line remover, creams, roll-on, intimate wipes, products related to sexual pleasure, urinary devices, pre and post maternity care, nutritional supplements etc.
Usually, old age people use urinary devices. We felt it should be available for women as well. In amarket or mall, even if the washrooms are unhygienic, males can use them without facing many problems. The same is not the case for women. So, a urinary device can be helpful in such cases.
Q: What makes Vayas Sakhi different?
Mr. Shailesh: We have all Woman staff at our store. It is a store where a woman speak to a woman. Our staffs are well-trained to interact and answer the queries with respect to hygiene and health. They help the customers in finding the products. Even if a female comes with a male, the staff educates about the importance of privacy and hygiene. While other stores talk about the price and discounts on products. At Vayas Sakhi, we explain the features and benefits of the products. Women feel comfortable in asking questions and clearing their doubts. This kind of privacy isn’t available anywhere in the market.
Q: Where is your store located?
Mr. Shailesh: Currently we have two stores. Both the stores are in Hyderabad. The stores occupy an area of 200 square feet. One is in Malkangiri. It is more than a month old. The other store is in Yapral, which is an upcoming residential area. The second store is a franchise, and we are truly honored to share it’s the first franchise store and also our first step towards empowering women at entrepreneurship level also.
Q: How has the response been till now?
Mr. Veerender: Initially, people around us were hesitant of our idea. But women were happy with the concept. We try to advertise by sending out leaflets. We will soon use other mediums of advertising as well. At present , 20-30 women visit the store daily, and footfall is more at the weekends.
Q: What are your future plans?
Mr. Shailesh: We want to bring in more women entrepreneurs. In the current state even if a woman has a company or business in her name, a male handles it thus the women entrepreneurship remains on paper but not in reality. We want more women to get into mainstream business to change the existing perception. Also, after a lot of research, to our surprise, we could not find any store on the planet that only caters to women’s needs. We want to set up stores in towns all over India having a population of over a lakh. Currently, We are not into our own private label, we bring in wide range of brands with multiple options for the consumer to buy from. We wish to launch our product line as well in future. The aim is to make our products and services available to as many women as possible in India.
To know about Veerendernath Caringula, please check – LinkedIn.
To know about Shailesh. B Sharma, please check – LinkedIn.