With support from the U.S. DFC, two Indian companies are expanding their networks to provide quality hygiene products and eye care.
DFC financing is helping Eye-Q Vision grow its network of hospitals that provide high-quality eye care at affordable prices. (Photograph courtesy Eye-Q Vision)
Poor menstrual hygiene practices are significant risk factors for cervical cancer and other health issues. Soothe Healthcare, founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Sahil Dharia, produces feminine hygiene products for women and girls in underserved rural areas. Based in New Delhi, the company’s mission is to make menstrual hygiene products more accessible to women and educate people on the importance of menstrual health.
“Over 75,000 Indian women die annually of cervical cancer, with an additional 150,000 women diagnosed each year,” says Shruti Kapoor, senior marketing manager at Soothe Healthcare.
In 2022, Soothe Healthcare received $7.7 million in financing from the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to support the continued growth of its business. The project advances DFC’s Global Health and Prosperity Initiative as well as DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative, which empowers women with the tools to care for and learn about their health. DFC is the U.S. government’s financial institution for investing in global development.
“DFC funding is helping us reach more women across wider geographies,” says Kapoor. “We are using this capital to grow our distribution channels, deepen our reach to women across Tier II and III markets, and strengthen marketing. The capital will also be used to spread a wider social message on women’s menstrual hygiene.” Soothe Healthcare plans to scale from 5 million to 17 million customers per month over the next seven years.
More than 93 percent of Soothe Healthcare’s revenue is driven by cities with populations of one million or less and rural areas. The company has many ongoing programs, including PareeVartan, through which menstrual hygiene sessions and product distribution drives are conducted in schools and colleges, and free health camps are organized for women in rural areas and female inmates in prisons.
“There is a need to focus on and address women’s hygiene issues with the right products,” says Kapoor. Through Paree, the company’s flagship brand, “we are not only making good quality menstrual products accessible to women but also through our workshops, health sessions and campaigns [we are] trying to initiate a conversation for prioritizing menstrual health among women so that they actively contribute to the national economy,” she adds.
An eye on quality care
DFC financing is helping Eye-Q Vision grow its network of hospitals that correct vision and treat eye conditions. Eye-Q Vision, a super specialty chain in 50 districts across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Gujarat, is focused on providing high-quality eye care at affordable prices. “We have treated over 7.5 million patients in India and Nigeria over the last 15 years,” says Rajesh Maheshwari, chief finance officer at Eye-Q Vision.
In 2022, the company received $9.9 million in financing from DFC, which is helping the company grow its network of hospitals that correct vision and treat more serious conditions like cataract and glaucoma across India, which has the world’s largest population of blind people. “DFC funding will help in expanding the reach of Eye-Q in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal,” says Maheshwari. “We will be opening four to five centers every year, providing all eye care specialties.”
Eye-Q is also generating local employment in smaller cities, with a focus on recruiting female employees. “Over the last 15 years, Eye-Q has trained around 5,000 team members and they are working at Eye-Q or elsewhere,” says Maheshwari, thereby contributing to the pool of trained personnel in health care.
Maheswari shared Eye-Q’s ambitious goal to extend eye treatment to more than four million new patients over the next five years. Beyond that, Eye-Q also hopes to open 50 new eye care centers in India over the next seven to eight years, as well as 20 centers overseas.
Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.
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