Project Sashakt: The Scaling-Up Dilemma of a Women's Empowerment Initiative in India
The case, set in October 2017, follows the predicament of two enterprising young women, Saranya Das Sharma (Saranya) and Aamiya Viswanathan (Aamiya ), the founders of Project Sashakt. After learning that a large number of girls dropped out of school after reaching puberty due to lack of access to affordable disposable sanitary napkin and the adverse impact on the environment caused by the rampant use of disposal of non-indegradable sanitary napkins, Saranya and Aamiya founded Project Sashakt (Sashakt). It crowdsourced fund and procured 100% compostable sanitary pads that it distributed free of cost to the beneficiaries in and around Delhi. In addition, Sashakt conducted awareness workshops and outreach programs to educate the girls on MHM and dispel the taboos surrounding menstruation and they eventually extended their outreach programs to nearby slums. Sashakt's suppliers, Aasma Foundation and Aakar Innovations, were supportive of the cause and supplied biodegradable sanitary napkins at subsidized prices. Yet, as Sashakt grew, in order to become financially self-reliant and sustainable, the founders began to seriously consider the idea of vertically integrating the operations by setting up a biodegradable sanitary pad manufacturing unit in a village in Bihar, a state in Eastern India with poor gender parity indicators. They hoped that the manufacturing unit would not only create employment opportunities for disadvantaged rural women but also produce cost-competitive supplies for the project's free distribution drives, thereby scaling the scope and impact of Sashakt. The proposed venture involved a large capital outlay, yet that was the least of their concerns. They were more concerned about the potential implications of a non-profit transitioning into a social enterprise and the challenges and risks involved in setting up - and scaling up - the proposed venture.