The ability, foresight and the vision to solve problems that exist in society at large, ought to form the crux of a ‘new’ form of capitalism. Far too many individuals focus on the limits of capitalism, as being a system enriching the already rich, however, we must not forget that it is free-market capitalism that has sowed the seeds of our financial system whose root concept lies in the ability to create credit.
Many large investors have increased their focus on environmental, social and ethically governed companies in order to empower business models and value propositions focussed on including both commercial objectives and a larger purpose geared towards societal well-being.
India deserately needs as many companies as possible who can include societal objectives in their business models. Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Vikas Bagaria, the founder of PeeSafe whose focus on health, wellness and hygiene, a loyal customer base of vocal influencers and millennials and last but not the least, its focus on the problems primarily faced by women, a section historically underserved, is well appreciated and lauded. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give a brief info about your startup? What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
Pee Safe was commercially launched under SafetyKart in 2013. Its inception was the outcome of a personal experience when during a road trip, my wife Srijana fell sick and had to be admitted into a hospital. She was diagnosed with acute Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) after having used a public restroom. This gave us the idea of making a product that could be sprayed on a toilet seat, kill germs and reduce the chances of UTI for women. Our flagship product called Pee Safe toilet seat sanitizer spray was launched after an initial testing phase among family and friends. It is a dermatologically tested product that promises to kill 99.9% of harmful microorganisms present on unhygienic toilet seats within 10 seconds, besides being travel friendly.
Millions of women in India face the ordeal of having to use unclean public washrooms everyday. While many do not have access to toilets, for others, the experience of using a public toilet is nothing less than a nightmare. Though there is some awareness, the need of the hour is for products and solutions that help women maintain good intimate hygiene and remain free of infections. Women’s hygiene issues have long been considered as a taboo and public debate around these topics has been highly censored. This has had a negative impact on women’s health. About 88% women in India still use unsanitized cloth, sawdust and other materials, instead of sanitary napkins. There was thus a need for sustainable, healthy and environment-friendly products and I saw this as an opportunity to contribute both at a societal level as well as on the personal front.
Over the years, we have also gained a significant market share for other women’s hygiene products including eco-friendly sanitary pads, organic tampons, menstrual cups, panty liners and breast pads. Apart from this, we also have intimate hygiene products for both men and women including a wash and wipes. We have also entered other sub-personal hygiene segments through products like Palm Safe and Moskito Safe apart from anti-pollution masks. Recently, we launched a sister concern called Raho Safe, a brand that provides affordable personal hygiene and sanitation products. From women’s intimate hygiene products, we have evolved to a brand dedicated to the goal of bringing about personal hygiene and wellness solutions to people in India – products that are healthy and sustainable in the long run.
We also have actor, influencer, and entrepreneur Jacqueline Fernandez as the brand ambassador for our Raho Safe range while actor and MP Nusrat Jahan endorses the Pee Safe range of products.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I am the Founder of Pee Safe, a well-funded personal hygiene and wellness brand. I am a serial entrepreneur and a businessman with over 2 decades of experience. I founded Safety Kart, India’s 1 online safety products portal in 2007. I have also mentored and funded several businesses including WittyFeed, Innov8, EdgeFX, Asadel Tech and Coutloot. When my journey began, there was no such thing as a ‘start-up’. As India entered the e-commerce and start-up revolution, my mind was fixated on designing a business with a larger, more compelling purpose. I started out on my own right after getting an MCA degree in Electronics from Jadavpur University. I hail from a business-oriented family and therefore, was able to hone my innate entrepreneurial and team building skills.
Where is your startup based out of?
Pee Safe is based out of Gurgaon, which is a strategic location.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Instead of calling it a paranoia, I would want to call my entrepreneurial journey and the need to find solutions as my constant driving factors. The fact that we set out to provide solutions to a problem faced by many women in India is what continues to help me stay focused.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
Pee Safe is a leading brand in the hygiene and wellness segment and hence all other players in the category can be considered competitors. However given the increased awareness about personal hygiene and sanitation in the current times, the more the brands in the space, the greater the reach and protection of the masses.
In respect to our USPs, our Toilet Seat Sanitizer Spray is the best selling product in its category and was a disruptive product for us. We have been consistently talking about high-quality sanitization and personal hygiene since seven years, a conversation people today truly understand the value of.
We constantly engage with our TG through various digital touch points especially social media platforms like Instagram. Our messaging is quirky, fun, and engaging and is aimed at connecting with the woke millennials. This helps us in regularly introducing new products to meet their needs.
We also have a highly effective and innovative marketing strategy which ensures a word of mouth brand promotion and customer loyalty among our audiences. So far, 6,000 influencers have talked about Pee Safe’s products on Instagram during the last three years, and about 80% of those have been organic influencers. These are also the end-users of their products. Pee Safe’s TG is in the age group of 18 to 35 years, and we have spent extensively on digital marketing, their preferred marketing medium.
Pee Safe has also launched various popular campaigns such as the Pee Room Conversations, which reached out to over 2.5 million Indian women across the country and digital promos including #HerPwr and #TakeCareMaa and the more recent #BleedYourWay. Our aim is to make Pee Safe a renowned brand using an impactful micro-influence strategy and effective cause-leadership. The brand is growing rapidly, and we are aiming to further expedite the growth by launching new products regularly.
We have also undertaken several other initiatives such as distribution of anti-pollution masks to Gurgaon police. We also distributed sanitary pads and menstrual cups to women in rural areas as a way of raising awareness on menstrual hygiene as also sustainable alternatives.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
I always try to balance out every role I play in life. I am an entrepreneur, a family man, a mentor as well as an investor and I strive to give my 100% to all my endeavours. While my upbringing has given me the natural ability to manage risks and take on challenges, my passion for travelling, meeting people and the hunger to do more gives me the strength and desire to learn and unlearn, grow and adapt every day. This allows me to innovate and contribute to both my family and the society in some way.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If not then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
When we started Pee Safe, a majority of the first few rounds of investment came from extended friends and family. There were also a few external investors who identified with our vision and we got support from them, in bridge rounds. For Series A funding, we reached out to selected consumer and healthcare funds, of which Alkemi was the most active. We aligned with their funds investment theory which helped us bag the INR 31.2 crore Series A funding. The funding helped us scale the business and our turnover (year-wise) was as follows: INR 225 lakh in 2017/18; and INR 670 lakh in 2018/19. We expect the business to grow to INR 1400 lakh in 2019/20.
What gets you excited about this company?
The biggest excitement comes from the issue we set out to address and are still focusing on. Prior to starting Pee Safe, I was already trying to solve problems around safety with my earlier ventures. With Pee Safe, I went a step ahead. In a world, where men are known to turn their faces to problems faced by women, I wanted to be the change maker and innovator. With the help of Srijana, I was able to bring to light issues that are usually hushed up and considered taboo in the Indian society and contribute to the larger sustainable development goal of hygiene and sanitation in the country.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I am an early riser and begin my day with a quick round-up of daily news from all over the world. Around 6 am, I talk to my father for about five minutes, a conversation that has been an integral part of my routine for the last 20 years now. After that, I have a cup of tea with my wife Srijana and we discuss various topics of interest.
Every alternate day, I undertake about 45 minutes of freehand exercise sessions with my trainer through a video call. Then about half an hour is fixed for a Zoom call with Sourav who is the CEO of SRV Damage Prevention (another Delhi-based business that I own). Once I finish my call, I spend about half an hour on a Zoom call with the Pee Safe leadership team. I then speak to the larger Pee Safe team for about 10 to 15 minutes.
After completing my work outside, I get back home for lunch. Post that, I am on calls with vendors and various teams at Pee Safe. I also catch up with a couple of friends and complete other things that need my attention. Then, I join the Pee Safe team at the end of the day where I address their concerns and answer queries.
Also, I make it a point to spend some time in the open area on my balcony. This is a time where I relax and drink a cup of tea. After dinner I spend some time catching up with friends from various parts of the world or chatting on WhatsApp, etc. My day ends at10.30 pm.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Founded in 2017, Pee Safe is a privately held startup. Our team includes me as the Founder and CEO, my wife Srijana Bagaria is a Co-Founder as is our partner Dheeraj Jain.
Srijana is a serial entrepreneur with more than 23 years of experience in managing multiple ventures ranging from logistics management to retailing and conditional based monitoring systems. She has invested in companies like Wittyfeed, Triplived and Shaadi Saga. Redcliffe’s Dheeraj Jain joined hands with Pee Safe in early 2017 as a co-founder, to scale up and build a larger product portfolio.
We also have a very young, vibrant, and energetic creative team that is responsible for our campaigns and creatives. Youngsters not only bring in fresh ideas but also add a lot of energy to the work environment.
Know a great startup story or want to share your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you. For more updates follow Bangalore Insider on Facebook and Instagram.