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Exclusive: Sixth Sense Ventures backs maker of sanitary napkin Paree

June 27, 2016

Sixth Sense Ventures, a consumer sector-centric venture investment firm, has invested in Noida-based Soothe Healthcare Pvt. Ltd, the firm behind Paree brand of sanitary napkins, a person privy to the development told VCCircle.

This marks the first new deal by the VC firm as it completed the fundraising process for its debut investment vehicle early this month.

When contacted, Sahil Dharia, founder of the firm, confirmed the development but declined to share the investment amount.

The venture capital firm typically invests up to Rs 10 crore picking small minority stake in its portfolio firms.
The VC firm is betting on a market with huge growth opportunity. According a research report on market leader P&G, the firm behind Whisper, by brokerage firm HDFC Securities, “Feminine hygiene is among the most under-penetrated segments in the FMCG space.” It cited an old finding of market research firm AC Nielsen that shows that feminine hygiene market penetration was in fact at 11%.

“Earlier, product affordability was an issue, now the price per pad has come down sharply over the past few years. Despite strong volume growth in the past few years, we believe the penetration is currently only around 16%. This level is much lower compared to even other emerging markets like China and Thailand (~50%- 60%), Indonesia (over 80%), Kenya (~30%), and equal to Uganda and Tanzania (~16% each). In case of developed countries like the US, the UK and Germany, the penetration level is ~90%-95%,” it noted.

Paree, positioned in the value segment of the market dominated by the likes of Whisper, Stayfree, She and Kotex, is currently available in more than 3,000 pharmacies and retail outlets besides e-commerce sites.

The company, which claims itself to be India’s first chemical-free sanitary napkin manufacturer, also has distribution tie-ups with major FMCG and retail majors such as ITC and Walmart.
Last year, the personal hygiene firm chose Indian ace shuttler Saina Nehwal as its brand ambassador. She has also invested in the company, though it is not clear if the investment is partly in lieu of fee for being the brand’s face.

In the past, Soothe Healthcare also attracted seed funding by John Cioffi, managing director of wealth management at UBS. The firm was launched four years ago by Sahil Dharia. Dharia had earlier worked as global head of operations, investment research content at Thomson Reuters, where he spent nine years in various roles. Prior to that, he worked on the buy-side at UBS Investment Bank in New York.

SSV’s debut fund
For the VC firm this is the eighth firm it has backed since it started investing in December 2014 when it backed luxury watch retailer Ethos and put money in Cross Roads India Assistance Pvt. Ltd, a roadside assistance provider for cars and two wheelers.

The investment firm floated by Nikhil Vora, former managing director of IDFC Securities and its co-head of research, has also invested in in, an online marketplace for wedding venues and vendors and oral care products company in JHS Svendgaard Laboratories Pvt Ltd, early this year.

Last August, it joined several others to co-invest in media group NDTV’s e-commerce venture Gadgets 360 and auto portal. And in November, it backed Grab, a Mumbai-based hyperlocal logistics service provider.

The VC firm made the final close of its debut fund last week raising Rs 125 crore ($18.5 million), after resizing the target corpus. It is planning to invest in a dozen odd companies from this fund, all in the range of Rs 10 crore odd, Vora has earlier told VCCircle.

Vora is independently also a private investor in several firms including One97 Communications, the firm behind mobile wallet and e-commerce firm Paytm; Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd, which runs Kangaroo Kids Preschool and Billabong High International School; Vini Cosmetics, a consumer goods company which raised funding from Sequoia Capital; sports-focused digital display solutions firm Technology Frontiers, backed by Avigo Capital; backed by IVY Cap; Infinite Analytics backed by Ratan Tata amongst others.