ECONOMYNEXT- MAS Holdings, an apparel manufacturer, is working on wearable technology to make menstruation more bearable for Sri Lankan women, an official said.
"Where we want to start work in Sri Lanka first is on periods," MAS Holdings Femtech Head Gayani Abeysinghe said.
"We want to start in our own factories because we want to make sure our own backyard is clean before we try to solve everyone else’s problem," she said
"We have been providing sanitary napkins to women who work there, but we want to do more than that."
Abeysinghe was speaking at a forum organized by the Institute of Policy Studies.
She said MAS researched the need for femtech (female technology) on incontinence (involuntary defecation or urination), periods and pregnancy in Sri Lanka, and decided on periods.
MAS Holdings already has a super-absorbant ‘period pant’ brand ‘Thinx’ launched in the US.
‘Thinx’ pants are priced 24 US dollars upwards, and products range from absorbing half a tampon worth of menstrual bleeding, up to two.
It also owns the ‘Become’ brand in the UK, which sells clothing for women in menopause, to make ‘hot flashes’ more bearable.
"But it’s not economical to buy from other countries because of the cost, logistics, like any brand," Abeysinghe said.
She said that markets convert from single-use pads and tampons to re-usable products in mass scale if it fits their lifestyle.
In markets where environmental sustainability is not ingrained, such products will only be consumed as a niche, she said.
Sri Lankans who are conscious of this and can afford to purchase these products from the firm’s international websites are welcome to do so, she said.
Its Femtech team was set up to utilize apparel technologies to better serve needs of women, since the female health space has not seen much innovation in the past 70 years, since the invention of the menstrual cup, Abeysinghe said.
Femtech is expected to become a 50 billion US dollar global industry by 2025, but most the revenue will go to firms developing mobile apps for period and fertility tracking, she said.
Therefore, MAS decided it had to innovate apparel technologies to tap into the market, she said.
The firm had researched women’s needs for five years, Abeysinghe said.
She said menopause clothing similar to ‘Become’ was not launched in Sri Lanka due to a lack of data.
"Menopause symptoms tend to be different depending on your race," she said.
"We aren’t very sure if the symptoms aren’t necessarily in Sri Lanka because South Asians are less prone to the symptom or if our mothers and grandmothers don’t talk about it."
MAS is one of the world’s largest business-to-business apparel manufacturers with annual revenues around 1.8 billion US dollars through operations in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
It has recently been developing its own brands, and has been moving up the technological ladder to remain competitive due to rising labour costs in its main production facilities in Sri Lanka.
Abeysinghe said with recent developments, MAS is describing itself as a global company instead of a Sri Lankan firm. (Colombo/Apr02/2019-SB)