An exclusive chat with Ravi Ramachandran, Founder, and Sharana Jhangiani, Head of community at Nua, to learn more about the new-age brand that’s working to transform the women’s wellness space in India with holistic and personalized solutions that address real problems faced by women in managing menstrual health and personal hygiene. A USP of the Nua offering for women addresses different types of needs through personalized packs delivered online.
Ravi and Sharana tell us Nua is driven by the aim to deliver great experience at great value, and ever since its launch, Nua has built a community of more than one lakh women on its social media channels. Which also speaks a lot about the brand’s unstated mission to develop and promote greater openness about the very important category of women’s personal hygiene and taking away the senseless taboo of discussing it in the public domain.
So, to know about Nua, its operations and how it builds its community and brand in the growing femtech space in India, read on.
When and how did you start Nua? What inspired you to start a company focused on women’s health and hygiene? And what, in your professional experience, education and background, inspired you to create and build Nua?
Having spent the last 18 years in the consumer and retail space, I realised that there is a big gap in the relationship that brands have with their customers. There are very few direct two-way conversations happening between them and fewer honest conversations around topics that matter.
When I started speaking to women around me – friends, family, and colleagues – I realised that this is especially true in women’s wellness where so many important topics are still considered taboo in our country. Consequently the ability to understand real issues gets diminished and this in turn has led to a massive gap in the experience delivered to customers. There was scope for a differentiated approach.
So, we spoke to thousands of women to hear what bothers them when it comes to wellness. Our initial focus was on periods given that the space is very large. After a lot of listening, we realised that every woman has a different need. No period is the same. Women are used to buying sanitary pads off the shelf without realising whether that particular pack of pads caters to their needs or not.
But why not create a customised solution that is solving a real problem? With Nua, we were able to do just that and a bit more. We wanted to bring about a change in the consumers’ life-giving them a wellness platform where they are heard and provide solutions specific to their individual needs.
Tell us about Nua’s offerings, and what sets it apart from the other women’s personal wellness and sanitary hygiene solutions in the market. What are its USPs as a product, whether on pricing or anything else?
More than just market presence, what’s important to us is that we solve real problems. It’s all about being customer-first. We are doing this by creating personalised products, content, and a strong community where every woman is heard and cared for.
Everyone at Nua has a customer-focused view, constantly contemplating what we can do to make every woman’s life better. We strive to create holistic solutions for our customers, searching for the right answer, even if it is not a physical product. Our customers appreciate the fact that we provide hassle-free solutions and these solutions can be delivered right to their doorstep.
How has Nua been faring so far in the Indian market?
It has been a great journey for us over the last 24 months. Today, we have managed to build a fast-growing community of over 2 Lakh women including customers who constantly engage with us and help us drive real conversations. We are also seeing that our efforts are beginning to pay off as we continue to build a strong trust-based relationship with our community.
For example, our community and customers came to our rescue during the pandemic. We grew 400% just between June and December 2020 primarily on the back of loyal customers.
What is the market like, and what share does Nua have. Where does it aspire to reach, and by when?
Whether it’s Tier 1 or Tier 2, we have noticed a major shift in consumer behavior. Women are making informed decisions before buying a product. They want to be certain whether a particular product is solving their problem or not.
In this context, our vision is to be India’s largest and most trusted women’s wellness brand by building powerful solutions powered by digital-first products and services touching millions of women across India.
In India, still, only about 20% of women have access to, or use, sanitary napkins. What initiatives has Nua taken so far to significantly improve these numbers?
At Nua, we are constantly thinking of ‘How do we make every woman’s life better?’ We have always been at the forefront of supporting women through some of their hardest days. Over the past few years, we have worked with organisations such as CRY and the Indian Red Cross Society to supply sanitary pads for women in need and also build awareness around menstrual health.
Most recently, in collaboration with The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Maharashtra State Innovation Society, YWater India, and the Navi Mumbai hub of the Global Shapers Community, we launched Project Prerna to supply 300,000 Nua pads to 30,000 women in the low-income neighborhoods of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
We also distributed pamphlets written in Marathi and Hindi with each pack detailing usage instructions, hygiene, and safe disposal practices with a broader objective of improving menstrual awareness.
How do you market Nua; what’s your marketing strategy like? How have you been communicating about Nua with women?
Today we are extremely focused on organic and low-cost performance marketing efforts. We have seen referrals and word of mouth have a tremendous impact on our business. Working with relevant influencers who enjoy storytelling around our brand has been a key driver.
Platforms that allow us to engage in direct conversations with women – whether they are our customers or not – have been successful for us in driving organic traffic. Our focus has been on creating a meaningful dialog with women to discuss their wellness issues, along with thought-through content that is well-researched.
Creating a safe space for women to talk about things that have historically been pushed under the carpet, but in a way that is not intimidating nor intrusive, has helped us in building a strong brand pull.
In the digital space, which platforms, especially social media platforms, do you concentrate upon?
The primary focus remains the big three of social media- Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. However, we are constantly experimenting with emerging/ new platforms. Some of them seem promising. The trick here is to find the right content strategy for different platforms depending on the audience type and engagement.
What place does performance-based digital marketing, micro-influencer outreaches and the use of dark social – i.e. WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram and Signal, for instance – have on your digital marketing plans?
For a D2C brand such as ours, performance marketing is core to what we do. As of today, our most effective channels continue to be the Facebook and Google ad platforms but we also see a role for programmatic marketing as we continue to scale up.
What challenges do you face while marketing Nua?
Wellness is a space that is built around trust. So just like any other brand in this space, the biggest challenge for us is about building that trust with customers. So the approach we take to marketing tends to be different and needs a lot more thought. A cookie-cutter approach does not work anymore.
What are Nua’s on-ground retail-support and distribution presence like? What channels do you use to connect with your retail support staff, associate agencies and partners?
We are a 100% DTC brand and hence we do not have an offline/retail presence at this stage.
Even as the personal-hygiene and the sanitary-napkins market slowly but steadily grows in India, what are Nua’s plans for growth?
Our mission is to build holistic solutions in solving real problems and focus on being customer-first. The market for women’s wellness is massive as several large opportunities remain unsolved.
Over the next 12 months, we are poised to grow 4-5x on the back of new products, tech-enabled solutions, and foray into adjacent categories. To this end, we will be investing in new product development, technology, community, and of course talent.
How has Nua’s community-first (community building) approach helped in enhancing customers’ experiences?
When it comes to building communities – especially when there is a brand involved – earning trust is the real transaction. And in a category like ours, trust is earned through authentic, honest, and real conversation that creates a 3-way discussion – that is, not just with us and the community and vice versa, but also the community with each other.
Our approach has, and will always be, to keep the community at the heart of everything we do. We want women to feel safe, seen, and heard.
Today, we have a strong community of over 2 lakh women across our social media channels. We focus on holistic content based on our conversations with them, we have sessions with experts, and every day we learn something new ourselves!
Let’s shift to a slightly broader perspective on the space. Tell us about India’s fem-tech industry – its size and growth potential?
The femtech space in India is still nascent but the growth opportunities are massive – right from general wellness and intimate hygiene, to fertility, pre/postnatal solutions, fitness, and even mental wellness.
There are so many previously unsolved and complex problems here that can now be solved by clever use of technology, products, and content. Depending on what you choose to include in this space, we see this as a US$50-80 billion opportunity in India.
Are a majority of Indian women quick to adopt fem-tech innovations like fertility solutions, period-tracking apps, pregnancy, and nursing care apps, etcetera? And how can one enhance the rate of adoption?
While Nua does not have a native app at this stage, we are seeing a general awareness around femtech innovations and related solutions and apps.
We also have seen a sense of willingness by women to try out new products and solutions as long as they are addressing a core need. So in our view, as long as these innovations are solving real, large, and pertinent issues, the rate of adoption will increase.