At the age of 16, Tungga Dewi, one of the co-founders of Perfect Fit, experienced her first menstrual cycle with no prior knowledge or support. Although her story may seem unique to readers outside Indonesia, it represents a typical experience of teenage girls in South-East Asian countries where sex education remains a taboo subject.
According to the 2021 Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey, a quarter of adolescent girls had never spoken to anyone about menstruation before experiencing it first-hand, and 17 percent had no idea that menstruation was an indicator of puberty and the start of sexual reproduction.
Tungga and her co-worker Riesa Putri (also known as Icha) saw business opportunity in the social impact of menstrual health and decided to leave their full-time job to establish Perfect Fit. The start-up business aims to dismantle Indonesian society's taboo around reproductive and sexual health by normalising the subject of menstruation and introducing eco-friendly menstrual products. Gender inequality and gender-based violence have been linked to archaic and strict norms governing sexuality, and their business model contributes to efforts to address this issue.
Perfect Fit has emerged to be one of the winners of She Disrupts Indonesia 2021, a venture competition and pre-acceleration programme focusing on women-led ventures and ventures with women beneficiaries. Held from July to August 2021, it was co-organized by IWEF (Indonesia Women Empowerment Fund), YCAB Ventures, Moonshot Ventures, Creatella Impact, UN Women, Citibank and UNDP; funded by UN MPTF through Employment and Livelihood project.
Tungga’s previous works in a non-profit field led her to conduct a small research project on menstruation among adolescent girls in East Sumba. The research discovered a startling disparity in the availability of menstrual health products in Indonesia's cities versus its countryside. Small shops in rural East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi lacked a variety of sizes and brands, whereas supermarkets in major Indonesian cities had a wide selection. They reported itching or irritation, and had to walk long distances just to get their hands on the only available pads sold in stores.
Furthermore, a rise in the number of unintended pregnancies among high school students has been observed in rural areas due to a lack of education about reproductive and sexual health. Tungga noticed that one of her students had previously thought that her menstrual blood came from her anus. “These stories are our 'why,'" she says. “Because we want all women to have the same information and the same experience of a healthy menstruation, our "why" is bigger than just selling products,” she adds.
They joined SheDisrupts Indonesia 2021 because they wanted to learn how to scale their startup and find support from the community. As social start-up, they wanted to focus on three areas: women's health, community empowerment, and environmental sustainability. But because they had no prior experience, they had no way to structure their evaluation of their results. Women's entrepreneurship was an important part of the program's goal of empowering women, which was also a major motivator for their participation.
Their participation at SheDisrupts reminded the Perfect Fit co-creators that they weren't the only ones working to empower women in the startup world. Thanks to SheDisrupts, Tungga and Icha were reunited with a network of female founders, mentors, and institution actors who helped restore their faith in their abilities as first-time female entrepreneurs. Some of their newfound friendships with other participating startups led to future collaborations between Perfect Fit and other participating startups. Tungga and Icha also include valuable knowledge of value propositions and the usefulness of Impact Measurement and Management (IMM) tools as a result of the program. According to Icha, "We received great feedback on how to implement impact measuring tools, such as the Theory of Change, allowing and assisting us to explore the ways in which we can create impact with our business".
Perfect Fit has been operating in East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi since last year, providing locally made, leak-proof, reusable menstrual pads and underwear – the first of their kind in Indonesia. The company's products are now available on major e-commerce platforms and marketplaces.
Written by Cindy Colondam (Impact Investment Officer) and Kalila Anneszka (Social Impacting Investing Intern
Edited by Tomi Soetjipto