Canfem: This Mother-Daughter Duo Made Startup Becomes A Messiah To Breast Cancer Survivors
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women and accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women. At the age of 17, Akriti Gupta witnessed the lives and struggles of cancer patients and survivors closely as her father was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer in 2015. From then onward, during routine hospital visits, Akriti and her mother Kavita Gupta ran across many breast cancer patients and grasped about their hassles in finding a quality affordable breast prosthesis in the market which led them to develop their startup ‘Canfem: Comfort and You.’
By Pallabi Ghatak
A 2018 report of Breast Cancer statistics recorded 1,2,468 new registered cases and 87,090 reported deaths. More than 50% of women suffer from stages 3 and 4 breast cancer which indicates that a significant number of women have to undergo mastectomy, removal of a breast(s), as a part of their treatment.
For Akriti Gupta conversations with her father's oncologist and some other doctors along with the breast cancer survivors made her realize the importance of comfortable and affordable prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomy as society considers breasts as an integral part of feminine identity and loss of a breast(s) can lead to body image concerns, self-isolation and other mental as well as physical health concerns.
In, 2015 Akriti, now a Masters on Social Entrepreneurship from TISS, Mumbai, teamed up with her mother Kavita Gupta, and incubated Canfem - a for-profit social enterprise that is dedicated to improving the quality of life of breast cancer patients/survivors in India.
Based in Haryana, it offers affordable and quality breast prosthesis and mastectomy bras for the consumers in India.
Kavita Gupta, a social worker at that time had mastery knowledge on fabric which helped them to work and rework with different types of fabric, shaping prototypes for a breast prosthesis, based on the feedback they received from doctors and various cancer survivors. They kept on consulting with necessary personnel with every modification, with resilience and endurance, till they perfected a Minimum Viable Product.
Launched officially in February 2019, with approval from All India Medical Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Tata Memorial Centre Hospital, Canfem currently specializes in two products; breast prosthesis and a cancer brassiere which a mastectomy bra with pockets. Initially, they started distributing breast prosthesis for free at local hospitals.
CANFEM, COMFORT, AND YOU:
Canfem's breast prosthesis is handcrafted as per the consumers' feedback and suggestions guiding innovation, beauty, and femininity of their products. Products are available in three shapes (triangle, round and drop) and 8 sizes priced between 499 and 2800; one gets to chose from a variety of products as "Canfem ensures your femininity best fit."
The products are designed and manufactured with cutting edge technology using cotton-based fabric ensuring the best comfort and are hand washable and very easy to maintain.
As per the claim of the company, it is comfortable to wear; has appropriate weight to balance a woman's body and lets the air pass hence is suitable for hot and humid Indian climate. 9000 such products are being used with a satisfaction rate of 93%.
Akriti firmly believes that no woman needs to compromise while already going through the difficult journey of being a breast cancer patient/survivor. To date, Akriti has been able to help over 3000+ patients and survivors with her products providing physical, emotional, and psychological support.
On top of that, the products are manufactured by women from rural India. Such women are well and provided means of livelihood to support their families and live a life full of dignity. Akriti proudly reveals are idea,
"It's not only about economic empowerment, but it's also about social empowerment...They are now more confident to be themselves."
AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS: Akriti now organizes webinars, along with the experts from the field, for patients, survivors, and caregivers focusing entirely on coping and not the problem. She is also developing a peer-to-peer support group for survivors that is led by the survivors who are trained in counseling aiming to emphasize instead of sympathizing.
During her Masters, Akriti conducted with TISS Mumbai, a successful behavioral-change focused awareness campaign for breast cancer.
AMBITION: In the next few years, she sees Canfem as the go-to brand for breast cancer patients and survivors across India along with grabbing the global market. Further along the line, Akriti envisions developing an integrated platform for cancer care products that will provide products and services for patients and survivors of all types of cancer.