Changing the Art of Shaving
Andhra Pradesh-based Sowjanya Healthcare Solutions has developed an organic, disposable shaving brush to alleviate health risks associated with shared shaving brushes.
Traditionally, barber salons in India used to use single brushes on multiple customers. This often caused rashes and exposed the body to allergies, Hepatitis B and even the HIV virus. The risks associated with using a common brush for shaving have been identified by organizations like the World Health Organization and the Indian National Association for Study of the Liver (INASL) as well.
Sowjanya Madala and her Andhra Pradesh-based company recognized the importance of replacing the traditional shaving brushes with organic, disposable ones. One of their first products is Bodha, an organic, sustainable, and, most importantly, disposable shaving brush. Its bristles are made from banana fibers. Since its introduction, the Bodha brush, priced at Rs. 6, has been popular with salons, hotels and resorts, and can be purchased from stores. The company is in the process of expanding its product line to disposable razors, organic soap and other brushes associated with personal grooming.
Madala’s company, Sowjanya Healthcare Solutions, has also made a significant impact on employment in rural India. Currently employing 25 women, the company’s success is enabling it to increase this number to 100 women within the next year.
Madala is a postgraduate in physics with a bachelor’s degree in education and experience in teaching and business management. Excerpts from an interview.
How did you come up with the idea for the Bodha brush?
Traditionally, barbers use the same brush for applying shaving cream on different customers. It is assumed by the barbers that shaving foam and brushes are not sources of transfer of diseases. It is believed by the general public that soap kills and cleans the skin of all germs. My husband usually visited barber salons for shaving and used to complain of allergic skin reactions after the shaving process. This was always attributed to the shaving razor and never the brush. These were common problems ignored by most men in my family and around me.
An article published in a local newspaper provided some clues to my queries and an in-depth study provided many published reports on the connection between shared shaving brushes with skin diseases. Further, reports from the WHO and INASL provided more insight into the problem. This made me think in the direction of disposable brushes.
What materials are used in making Bodha brush?
Banana pseudostem fibers, wood chips or sawdust and other waste material from plants are used to make a Bodha brush. A small quantity of natural glue is used to make the brush handle out of sawdust or wood chips. No trees are felled in this process.
When we started, the market was already flooded with products for single use, but none made from an organic and renewable source. Hog hair, camel fur and plastic are often used. Animal fur-based brushes themselves are a potential source of pathogens or can also be carriers for disease-causing agents. Plastic bristles are harsh to the skin and are an environmental burden. So the idea of Bodha brush originated. After a very tiring search for a suitable fiber, banana fiber was found to have the best qualities.
How do you distribute your product to salons and consumers?
Through over-the-counter sales and online platforms to government-run hotels and resorts, large chains of hotels, and to big shopping malls.
Can you elaborate on how you plan to increase employment in your company?
We are presently providing employment to 25 women from rural background. We plan to expand our product portfolio and increase the workforce to 100 women in the coming year and increase this by 10 percent every year.
What are your future plans for your company?
We are planning to offer completely organic shaving kits, disposable razors based on biodegradable plastic, organic shaving foam, organic soap, and all kinds of brushes used in the personal care segment. Our disposable razor is already ready and has been received well by barbers and customers. We have also created interest in including this product into the tonsuring divisions of large pilgrim centers in India. We will soon supply the razors to many large temples in India. Our shaving kit is already being sold through institutional sales to the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation hotels for the past year.
Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.