In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers and innovators, We bring our next interview with an innovator and entrepreneur Mr. Aqib Mohammed, Co-Founder, Azah Pads.
Azah pads are made with the finest organic cotton along with a hypoallergenic non-woven fabric that leaves an ultra-soft surface. The core consists of a non-toxic and eco-friendly absorbent which ensures a dry feeling even after several hours. It is the first company in India to ensure that the pads are Made Safe Certified, meaning that they have been extensively tested and are free from chemicals and irritants that shouldn’t be in contact with the sensitive areas of the body.
After completing his engineering from the prestigious IIT Roorkee and working for big names such as Snapdeal, Aqib along with Shashwat Diesh started Azah Pads.
Recently, On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020, Azah launched a month-long #RashFreePeriod campaign. The campaign aims to encourage healthier menstrual practices and help women better protect themselves from rashes & irritation.
The campaign to be run by Azah invites women from all across India to buy its sanitary pads and use them while promising it’s customers a 100% refund should they get any rashes during their period.
Let’s hear from him how he started this and moving ahead.
- According to you, how important is brand value for any brand in the market?
The brand only exists if it has value. As consumers, we don’t really only transact but we place our trust in the brand we are interacting, hence brand value is something which plays a very important role. We are in the category of sanitary pads. When a customer is actually purchasing something like Sanitary pads, it is very sensitive for them. A lot of trust and emotion is involved. Brands really need to have a trustworthy and emotional bond with the customers which is built with two-way communication.
- What was the motivation behind starting a woman-centric brand?
I and my co-founder have been entrepreneurs in the past and we have been looking for problems continuously. It just happened that this problem directly came from our own surroundings when Shaswat (co-founder) overheard his sister complaining about rashes and I also asked my family members, I realized this a problem which we generally don’t talk about it. When we researched more about it and conducted surveys, it was eye-opening for us. We realized that it is something where a lot more is needed. So basically we didn’t decide to start a women-centric brand, it just happened.
- How have been your journey with Azah in last one and a half year?
We started In April- May 2018. It has been a very fascinating, learning and humbling experience for us. When we started we had basic and simple understanding like there are periods, there are pads and the story ends. But over the past year, we have learned so many things on the go and we have discovered so many problems. In the process, we are actually able to impact the lives of women in a positive way which we never imagined. Every day we get so many positive reviews to keep us motivated and it’s a tough journey as an entrepreneur with ups downs and challenges but it was fun.
- What are 3 learnings from your startup journey so far?
The first learning is the most cliched learning and it is the customer is queen. It’s easier said than done. Every company knows that the customer is important but it takes a lot of different experiences to actually realize and imbibe that value. It helps you prioritize things that are important. It’s natural to get distracted by what others are doing but once you put things under that lens of the customer, you’re quite clear about your goal.
The second learning is Startup and Entrepreneurship is more of a marathon rather than a 100-meter sprint. You really need to have the mindset that this is not something you are doing for the short term rather this a lifestyle which you have to live throughout. This is the mental condition that will help you last in this marathon.
The third learning for me was that the co-founders really need to align to a common goal. Like you will be spending most of the time, even more time than your family with your co-founder. In our case, if you ask my co-founder or me you’ll have a similar answer. We have known each other for long and rarely have miscommunication.
- A lot of Gender-specific products are taking the market by storms such as pee buddy, pee safe, beard oils, The Man Company and many more resulting in gender-specific brands. Your views on that?
In general, consumption is increasing since the market in India is rising and we are at the tipping point where the per capita income is increasing and hence consumption is growing exponentially. People are willing to spend much more money now in consumer goods and back it up with developing an ecosystem of startups in India the potential for such brands is huge. If we talk about women-centric brands, the market is going to experience much faster growth because of a lack of awareness. 20 years back, women were not earning much but now they are more liberated and hence increase in the consumption of women-centric brands. In terms of menstrual hygiene, in the coming times, women are going to spend more money on this.
- We have shifted from traditional media to digital media. What are your views on digital media?
Media is constantly changing since its inception. It started with papers and then TV came, the radio came and now it’s digital platforms. Digital Media is one of the same patterns but in the end, people remain the same. You have tune yourself according to the platforms, for example, the attention span of any customer is very short for any kind of advertisement as compared to the traditional. The basic principle remains the same but due to different technology the way people interact, it is different.
It’s most important to communicate your value as a brand and practice it. There are always new channels coming up. Facebook used to be the only platform 5-6 years ago but today it has been fading away to Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. There is no standard set of practices, you just need to adapt to the upcoming trends. All these platforms have a different set of demographics. Different platforms have a different attention span. Whenever you are creating your online presence you need to keep the specific platform and context in the brand.
- How much does working in different startups helped before starting your own venture?
During college days, I took me a lot of time to realize that I wanted to enter the world of startups and take it from there. I picked up coding as a hobby and landed my first job in Snapdeal which was one of the fastest-growing startups. The experience and learning curve in a startup is very steep and amazing as compared to traditional corporate. Whatever I learned during my days in Snapdeal helped in my journey. I started an education startup in 2015, in October 2016 when we had done some decent business we were acquired by Next Education. After that also I worked in a few settings and the ultimate goal was to start my own venture. So I met Shaswat in Delhi and we discussed the idea and started off Azah.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Aqib and Team Azah. Kudos to him for such a fun and insightful interview.