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Pasand is a social enterprise that educates adolescents on personal health and wellness.

Photo of Aunna Wilson
17 14

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Founded by four young women at Princeton University in 2012, Pasand was originally a sanitary pad company, but has evolved into a social enterprise to develop and facilitate transformative personal health education for adolescents in South India and beyond. In the summer of 2014, Pasand piloted our curriculum and established our headquarters based in Bangalore, India. Our programs address the silence surrounding health education, building confidence and self-respect among adolescents. We envision a safe, gender equal world where all adolescents have the tools, confidence, and supportive environment they need as they navigate their journeys to adulthood.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Piloting completed

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

India has the highest number of adolescents of any country in the world with over 250 million young people. This doesn’t include the support networks of parents, teachers, and community members and other countries in South Asia that are part of the long-term growth strategy. In Bangalore alone there are well over 500 private educational institutions. To date, we have reached over 55 schools/organizations, 6,800 individuals directly, and trained over 130 facilitators. Our success to date provides a roadmap for scaling. Critical to our ability to scale is our ability to effectively train facilitators. Prior to scaling our program, we wanted to prove the curricula were successful in the classroom before investing heavily in large-scale train-the-trainers programs. We have since done that. We have been in discussions with the Government of Karnataka, the Godrej Group, partners in Pakistan, and Teach for India to implement our programs through a training model at scale.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

This year, we aim to educate over 15,000 students across urban and rural South India. Through our programs, we hope to show significant changes in knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding reproductive health among our students. Consistent with our growth, we will become 25% financial sustainability in 2016 by charging for our programs on a sliding scale. We have proof of concept in our payment scheme and 60% of our programs were paid for by directly by the beneficiaries in 2015. In the long-term, our goal is to reach 100% financial sustainability by 2019 through a mixed-revenue scheme of paid programs and product sales (i.e. menstrual products and clothing). Additional program, not covered by revenue generation, for low-income and/or marginalized groups will be covered through local donations and CSR, which we will then be eligible for. Ultimately, we hope to work closely with the national and state governments to conduct our programming and with private organizations across South Asia interested in licensing our curricula.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

Pasand is structured as a social enterprise, with for-profit and non-profit entities in India and a non-profit entity in the U.S. We charge for our curriculum and services based on an individual’s or school’s capacity to pay. Over the long-run, our work with higher-income individuals will subsidize our work with lower-income individuals. Over the past 12 months, we have conducted in-depth research with schools across South India to develop a pricing model that enables us to reach sustainability. Our ability to reach financial sustainability will improve as we build brand recognition. Currently, over 60% of Pasand’s schools pay on a per-student basis for the program. As mentioned previously, Pasand aims to reach 100% financial sustainability by 2019.While we value the financial opportunities presented by wealthier schools, we also recognize the need for our programs in low-income communities, government schools, and rural areas where students are not able to pay or pay enough. In order to better access these children, we will work with the local, state, and national government to ensure all students are able to access health education. We have already begun engaging the government. Moving forward, we aim to work with government agencies, local donors, and private funding agencies to subsidize and expand our impact with students in low-income areas, of disadvantaged backgrounds, and in rural areas that are less cost-effective for our business.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

We currently work with program, product, and outreach partners. Program partners include organizations and NGOs that work in school-settings or with groups of individual through which we conduct our programs. Examples include Mantra For Change (an school transformation org), Teach For India fellows in Bangalore and Mumbai, ACTS Group of Institutions, and the Rotary Clubs of Bombay and Malleshwaram. Product partners include EcoFemme, Sukhita, Sukhibhava, and SheCup. These are organizations in South India that sell locally-made products that are primarily eco-friendly and provide us free demonstration samples and special pricing in return for leveraging our unique supply channels for schools. We are happy to promote often-unknown organizations working towards better, more sustainable menstrual hygiene products. Finally, we work with organizations in an outreach capacity to refer our students and customers when there is a problem or need beyond our scope and capacity, such as gynecological care or counseling. Organizations include Parivarthan, the Bangalore Gynecology and Obstetrician Society, and individuals working on self-help groups or micro-loans within different communities.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

Pasand has reached 6,700 people in directly in Bangalore, Sangli, Bombay, MP, Gujarat, and Sri Lanka, and indirectly in Delhi and Nepal. We primarily focused on low-income schools in Bangalore the past year. Using human-centered design we developed three-core curricula, one for young children, one for adolescents, and one for young adults. Our programs touch on issues including puberty, reproductive anatomy, menstruation (products, traditions, PMS), masturbation, attraction, safe/unsafe touch, legal rights, and consent. Additionally, we piloted a community-based, intensive 3-month program for young girls and mothers. We have developed and implemented our Safe and Health Institute program which certifies schools, and provides procuring assistance, regarding the built environment (i.e. bathroom facilities) for students to implement safe and hygienic practices. Finally, we conducted several training programs with teachers to teach our curricula and teacher/parent sensitization workshops.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

Karnataka (current), Maharashtra (current), Gujarat (planned expansion, April 2016), Madhya Pradesh (planned expansion, April 2016), Tamil Nadu (planned expansion, June 2016)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am passionate about WASH, and especially menstrual hygiene management and education, as a vehicle to behaviour change and a gender equal society. I have seen our students forced to return home during lunch hour because there was no waste bin to throw their sanitary napkins and the school was not aware of the implications of these (lack of) facilities. After our programs, young boys ask us if their mothers “fall sick” during the month due to their periods and what they should do to help. Seeing this type of empathy, change, and understanding is what motivates us every day. Our team consists of 9 full-time staff and 2 part-time staff, as well as numerous volunteers. Our core-team have masters in social work, counseling, development and women’s studies, with undergraduate degrees in Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Social Work, and more. Across our team, we are fluent in eight languages, and we have an ever-growing team of part-time facilitators.

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

Pasand was founded with the goal of providing bio-degradable pads that incorporated health messaging and targeted schools as the supply channel. We pivoted to health education in 2014, realizing that providing affordable sanitary products was not solving the more deep-rooted and systemic problems of menstrual hygiene, sanitation, and gender equality that we were targeting. Over the past year and a half we have focused on developing and refining our programs, using a human-centered design and demand based approach, in order to most effectively impact adolescents and their communities. This year we will be focusing on scaling our current programs to reach more communities across India and building our SAHI program. The SAHI program is an incentive-based approach to provide concrete guidelines for schools to improve their toilet facilities so that they are usable, menstrual-friendly, and maintained to a level that encourages use, healthy habits, and proper hygiene.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

The biggest risks for are plans to scale our educational programs are maintaining quality control and financial sustainability. From a quality perspective, we will use our M&E tools and add an additional layer to pivot reports at the facilitator, school, and organization level in order to maintain consistency and identify problem areas. Regional managers will review reports, maintain communication, and address issues. For financial sustainability, we will invest in marketing and communication with the urban community and continue to test our pricing model to see if there is responsiveness in the market, especially at the high end. Our biggest risk the SAHI program is the lack of compliance and maintenance from schools between quarterly visits. In order to combat this we will enlist student ambassadors to serve as the advocates and liaisons between end-users and the administration and parents. In our experience students are honest, dedicated and critical to success.

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

Currently, we use manual pre/post surveys to track responses to the programs and trainings and our session trackers and program reports to record reach, all in excel formats. As we will are rapidly growing, maintaining all of the information in a manual format in Excel is increasingly difficult and time consuming. We are exploring options for software that would maintain data at the individual level, and provide data visualization and reports for parents, schools, and organizations.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

We would directly reach 100,000 individuals and ~200,000 individuals indirectly, through our facilitator training programs. Currently our per student cost is $1.50/student and the per school cost (with 1000 students) is ~$750, using economies of scale. Including costs for overhead, marketing, M&E, and development we come in at roughly $1 per student, on average. In order to build our sustainability we need to focus energy on reaching out and maintaining a presence in both private schools and government schools through the support of the appropriate ministries. Our revenue would account for the additional reach priced into the model, using modest projections. We would reach 250 schools and organizations, across four strategic geographies, in India, where we would maintain Master Trainers to continue to grow our impact. This would include over 300 total schools in our SAHI program.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from

Pasand would invest in three key areas: growing our team and developing/refining content; monitoring and evaluation; and business development. In order to scale effectively we will need to focus considerable energy on finding additional talent and building our current skill sets, especially regarding training and development. We would make our content suitable for a variety of platforms including digital and mobile for facilitators that need to refresh and image-based content for illiterate parents, pertinent across language barriers. Improving and streamlining our M&E is critical to maintaining quality and measuring impact. We would invest into software and tools to help us do this efficiently, quickly, and effectively. Finally, focusing on business development (i.e. marketing, workshops, etc.) will be critical to reach paying customers and partnerships that will help us maintain financial sustainability.

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

Access to government ministries and other organizations for potential partnerships (i.e. Department of Education, Department of Women and Children, Save the Children), assistance in external evaluation and development of M&E tools, and identification of potential corporate partners for our SAHI program would be three areas of high interest for Pasand.

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

No, but as the majority of our activity occurs from our LLP we do not require FCRA to receive foreign funding for this organization.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley

Wow! What a wonderful organization. I so appreciate your approach to reaching a younger generation who can develop healthy, sustainable habits early on and really make change in their communities. So often global development initiatives fail to increase the capacity of the populations they serve and your concept addresses both immediate and future needs. Keep up the great work! 

Photo of Aunna

Thank you so much Ashley Coates - with the largest population of adolescents in the world (in India) it's definitely time for us to understand the incredible power for change that our young people have!

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