A Tale of Two: How the Maloo sisters turned an uncomfortable conversation into a startup
Important Conversations are often Uncomfortable
As a kid, you may have had several irrational fears – ghosts, monsters under the bed, or losing your favourite toy. But watching a movie with an inappropriate scene while one’s parents were around was easily any teenager’s worst nightmare. That coupled with the reluctance of parents to speak to their children about changes brought by puberty keeps sex education a taboo in a country that has the third-highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world.
So when two girls asked why their dads would turn their bathroom floor into a talcum powder skatepark after every shower, Ananya’s father Anant explained to them the discomfort that comes with the typical Ahmedabad climate, men’s limited (hygiene options) and often uncomfortable clothing. An idea that started with an uncomfortable conversation led Anushree & Ananya Maloo to found Nuutjob, an intimate hygiene brand that is gentle on the genitals and also aims to educate people about intimate hygiene through humour.
Dads Championing Daughters
While their plan was to make things easy for people, starting a company dealing with under-ki baat was anything but – with their own mothers questioning their intentions about whether women of marriageable ages should go nuts talking about male intimate hygiene. The reluctance to support and appreciate also came from acquaintances who would express their displeasure telling them how they were pouring their efforts & salaries down the drain for a product that wasn’t even needed in India.
Anushree offers some interesting insight here. She talks about how hard it is to convince men to purchase something and all things considered, the ball is in the women’s court when it comes to purchasing power in the house. “Our dads are never picky about what brand of shampoo to use – they always use what our mothers get”. But even when everyone had their doubts, their fathers readily put their two cents in. “Our dads were incredibly supportive because they resonated with the issue we wanted to cater to. They not only became our first allies but also our guinea pigs for product testing – helping us figure out the viscosity, fragrance and other features of our products.” Ananya shares. It is wholesome to also note that Ananya’s dad also came up with the name and logo for Nuutjob, setting standards for dads around the world even higher. We [heart] it.
Despite the initial support, getting Nuutjob to where it is today was not a low-hanging fruit. Convincing people of the product’s worth and raising awareness about the fact that intimate hygiene is so much more than talcum powder was a feat. But for Anushree and Ananya [born just 15 days apart], it was teamwork, the ability to convince people and the willingness to go on that got them on Shark Tank India and helped them secure a 25L investment deal. “We proved a lot of people wrong with Shark Tank India – boldly addressing this issue on a mass platform,” Anushree remarks.
Balance in the Force
“Anushree and I are sort of yin-yang (ish). She is the calm to my anxiety,” Ananya says. Brought up in a joint family, the cousins practically grew up as twins and levelled up their collective bargaining power skills as they navigated through their lives. “It started with the both of us strategically convincing our family to adopt a dog. Sometimes we would foster a pigeon or heal stray dogs at our house. When it came to starting Nuutjob, we knew exactly where to hit the nail”.
The determination shown by the Maloo sisters caused the people to pause and notice – with many of their customers thanking the ladies for revolutionising male intimate hygiene. While they’ve continued to connect and educate people through humour, they believe learning is a dynamic process which they’ve continued to be a part of, among their peers at GUSEC, where the startup is now incubated.
The Maloo sisters believe that while talking about one’s privates continues to be a sensitive topic, awareness starts with education. “Sexual reproduction is a chapter that is scurried through because teachers lack the patience to teach it and students lack the seriousness to understand. Yet, a small lesson on understanding our bodies better can go a long way in breaking taboos. Classrooms should be for asking questions, and schools should have the sensitivity to address a student’s curiosity.” Ananya mulls over.
Thanks to Ananya & Anushree, over 80,000 people have welcomed the comfort of Nuutjob products, a brand that has truly understood the essence of communication – that in life, as in relationships, all we want to do is feel heard & understood.