In honor of Women’s Health Month, The NewsRun interviewed Pakistani healthcare entrepreneur, Sadaf Naz. Sadaf has a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy studies and three years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. She is the Founder and CEO of Her Ground, an online women’s health platform that delivers feminine hygiene products to people’s doorsteps.
In Pakistani society, where talking about menstruation is a deeply rooted taboo, Her Ground is making it easier for women to shop for hygiene products. The platform aims to remove the stigma associated with female menstruation. Her Ground also conducts sessions in Pakistan’s rural areas in order to educate young girls about health, hygiene, and nutrition. Her Ground has already been featured in various publications, including Dawn and Crunchbase.
1) What inspired you to launch Her Ground?
Growing up in a middle-class family in Okara, it was taboo to discuss menstruation. When I got my first period, my mother gave me a piece of cloth and told me not to wash it in front of others because it was kind of a ‘sin.’ Buying sanitary napkins directly from a shop was the worst experience, because it felt like I was buying illegal drugs. Many women in Pakistan go through a similar or worse experience when it comes to their period, even though it is a natural part of a woman’s life. This inequality really shook me. My biggest motivator is the size of the problem. I want to help women live a healthier and more confident life so they can go on to do amazing things.
2) What steps did you take to set up the foundation of your business?
Launching the startup was the easier part. Building it turned out to be harder. I left my job at a pharmaceutical company. Without a background in technology or online commerce, I set out to launch our website. When I could not find a good developer, I learned how to build the website, add products, and write content to promote it myself. I reached out to a few online communities, watched a YouTube tutorial, and learned how to use Adobe Photoshop as well.
3) What milestones has the company achieved so far?
In 2018, we won Third Place in the GIST Tech-I Competition, along with the Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur Award. Currently, we have launched our services in all metropolitan cities in Pakistan. We have also expanded our product offering to include vitamins, birth control pills, and other feminine care items.
4) Have you faced any challenges while trying to grow your business?
Growing up I was the brightest student among my siblings. I was always praised for getting good grades and doing what was expected of me. I didn’t know what it was like to do something that other people around me might not be comfortable with. I had a decent amount of friends and colleagues while working at my previous job. When they learned about my decision to leave and start a menstrual pads company, some of them tried to talk me out of it. I felt a different kind of threat to my identity and got disheartened at times. Secondly, I was sustaining myself in Lahore and supporting my two siblings in our rented apartment.
Thankfully, help came in more than one form. My mother and older sister supported my idea and plan. I also invested time in reading origin stories about successful founders and watched documentaries. I began preparing myself for a new life as a female startup founder in Pakistan. I still have this fear of failure inside me, but I have learned to dance with it and live with it. I use it as a source of motivation and don’t let it pull me down.
5) What makes Her Ground unique?
Her Ground focuses on experience, which is a huge factor when it comes to building trust with our customers. We ship ‘Her box’ on their desired time and date. We are also cutting down costs and selling feminine hygiene products at a better price by directly buying from manufacturers. We have made the ordering process very simple as well. Women can order through mobile text messages, our website, and WhatsApp.
6) In your opinion, what are some taboos associated with female health and hygiene products in Pakistan?
There are many taboos associated with female health, especially female reproductive health. Some people claim that women are at risk of becoming infertile if they take a bath during menstruation. There is also a common belief that women cannot participate in normal activities during menstruation because they are impure and weak.
7) If you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur just starting out, what would it be?
Nothing can stop you from flying high. Just focus on your dreams and work hard. You can indeed achieve everything.
8) Life motto?
To build a platform where every woman can easily discuss her health-related problems rather than feel ashamed.