Role: Service designer and user experience researcher

Summary: For the last cycle of my final term at the University of Waterloo, my team and I were given the flexibility of choosing one of the United Nation's 17 sustainable development goals. Our goal was to focus on gender equality, leading to the creation of HerCup. HerCup is a sustainable menstrual hygiene product that is targeted towards women living in Mumbai, India with low to middle incomes. It is a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup that is worn internally for 12 hours and sits low in the vaginal canal, collecting rather than absorbing menstrual flows. HerCup is made from 100% soft, medical grade silicone, which is safe, comfortable, hygienic and lasts for over 5 years. Women in Mumbai, India would have the opportunity to purchase these menstrual cups at get together's hosted by local ambassadors from India that our company hires. 

Tools used: Google Forms, Illustrator

Empathizing & Defining

In order to narrow down on a target market and more specific problem, my team and I conducted secondary research online. We found that 88% of women in India use unsanitary materials such as hay, ash and even cow dung to manage their menstrual cycles, as these are the cheapest options. This disturbing statistic is ultimately what lead our team to focusing on women in Mumbai, India's reproductive health.

We wanted to hear from some of these women firsthand, so we put together a survey on menstrual hygiene habits and asked personal connections to share this with their peers from India. The survey received around 8 responses and asked questions based around these women's menstrual hygiene habits, education on menstrual cups and if they would like the opportunity to save money on their own.

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Ideation & Prototyping

After analyzing our survey results, our team wanted to ideate a solution where women have better access to sanitary menstrual products, while becoming more financially independent. Our initial solution, which can be scene on the left image, mainly relied on donations coming from individuals from North America. Our business lead said that this was a very risky business case to have, so we needed to pivot.

Initial HerCup business model / donation process.

Initial HerCup business model / donation process.

Initial HerCup landing page.

Initial HerCup landing page.

Rather than relying on donations, our team chose to sell our menstrual cups to women on a 3-year micro-financing repayment plan. Micro-financing is very common in India for individuals with low incomes, especially women, as it allows these individuals to earn credit by paying high monthly interest rates. We figured that this would strengthen our business case while empowering women to take control of their finances as well as feel as though they had the ability to purchase their own menstrual cup. The women would pay 78 cents monthly for 3 years, which is less than 1% of their monthly income, making this product very affordable for our target market.

The repayment rates for micro-financing is 95% as it is common and the Indian culture really values trust. However, in order to incentivize women to make their monthly payments even further, our team chose to make these "get together's" with the local ambassador a monthly occurrence. This way the women will have a common ground to make their micro-financing payments, as well as a comfortable space to talk about reproductive health.

Testing & Validation

As our target market is in India, it was hard to conduct a lot of usability testing. Our team still wanted to find a way to test the basics of our idea, so we put together a hypothetical "get together", where a group of women sat in a room with some treats, and my teammate talked about what a menstrual cup is, why it is beneficial to use one and how to use one. Following this introduction to menstrual cups, there was time for the attendees to ask any questions they had. Afterwards, we asked what their opinion was of the get together and they all seemed to enjoy it because it was a comfortable space to talk about menstruation.

In order to validate our ideas we also had an "advisory panel" of women that had education on the Indian culture as well as economics in Mumbai, India. These women were supportive of our cause and validated it every step of the way.