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Post by Milena Bacalja Perianes & Danielle Keiser

 

The rise of the FemTech industry shows that products and services are finally being designed to reflect women’s[1] pain points and direct needs.

 

At the Menstrual Health Hub, we are actively working to grow and support the female health movement by partnering with companies and innovators who practice women-centered design at the core of their business.

MAS Holdings is one such company that we are excited to introduce you to.

MAS is a multinational manufacturer of intimate apparel, sports, swim and performance wear headquartered in Sri Lanka that has partnered with global brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Nike and Lululemon. At its core, MAS is committed to social and environmental sustainability.

MAS’s global presence. Image: MAS Holdings

However, as we have discovered, MAS is not just creating an ethical and sustainable working environment for 98,000 associates across the world in the apparel industry, but also trying to radically improve women’s lives in the process. Their work is guided by a simple principle.

 

“Always do the right thing.”

 

But what does that actually mean when you talk about a Sri Lankan company that started as a family-run business of the Amalean brothers back in 1987, that now generates almost $1.8Bn revenue?

 

“Can financial profit produce social gain?”

 

As we’ve seen in the menstrual health space, this is the question that feminists and women’s rights advocates often ask and should continue to question about corporations. With the growing number of women changing the way business is done, FemTech companies are increasingly run by and accountable to women who are looking to merge the gap between financial and social profit.

 

A women-centered product line

MAS has a diverse portfolio under its umbrella that extends beyond business impact in the local and global market. Diversity, inclusion, and innovation are core to their business strategy. Women, particularly, are at the heart of what they do with regards to production, innovation and investment.

MAS is an apparel tech company working to revolutionise the future of clothing for people, but especially to meet the needs of women. Why should this matter to us as consumers, and especially as women’s health advocates? Because of MAS’s unique positioning at intersection of technology, apparel and women’s empowerment, they represent a dynamic opportunity to advance women’s health in ways to truly help address issues that the market has not yet been able to tackle.

How do we know? The proof is in the… panties.

ICON underwear. Image: Icon – www.iconundies.com 

You may not know it, but MAS’s Innovation Team – Twinery are behind the patent-pending urinary incontinence underwear sold as Icon by THINX in the US. This ground-breaking incontinence underwear is moisture-wicking, anti-microbial and leak resistant. In addition, MAS also manufactures THINX’s popular period underwear.

Since 2014, Twinery’s FemTech team has been innovating in this apparel space, particularly around addressing women’s unmet needs when it comes clothing to help them better manage their reproductive health. Diverse at their core, the team has solid experience with consumer insights, marketing, merchandising, finance, product and textile engineering. While the core team is based in Sri Lanka, they have a small team in the UK supporting the marketing of the Become brand.

Twinery’s FemTech team. Image: MAS Holdings

MAS is so committed to addressing women’s health needs that it also launched a new menopause-focused brand called Become in the UK. Become is an apparel line made with cooling fabrics that use seamless knit technology to help regulate body temperature, and wick moisture, particularly for women who experience hot flushes and spontaneous spikes in their body temperature during peri-menopause and menopause.

We are more than impressed with Become as it shows that MAS is creatively tackling other areas of women’s health with another practical, passive (and we’ll also add, stylish) solution to something millions of women experience and even suffer from but no one likes to talk about.

 

If we can’t talk about it, how can we innovate around it?

 

Menstruation, urinary incontinence, and menopause are among some of these taboo topics that MAS Femtech team is tackling through its innovation and product offerings. These products are not only addressing the specific demands and desires of women that the current market is not satisfying, but they are also, by virtue of even existing, helping break the silence and normalise the biological processes that are central to the female experience.

 

“Functional, lifestyle and wellness-oriented solutions for the female reproductive cycle from menarche to menopause.”

 

Become: undergarments for menopausal women with hot flashes & night sweats. Image: Become

 

Intelligent products designed by women, for women

 

Mainstreaming gender equality and gender sensitivity has been made a company-wide mandate.”

 

With 70% of their workforce made up of women, female innovators are the driving force behind MAS’s Innovation Team. In an insatiable desire to create better solutions that address women’s health, needs and desires, their team continuously consults women at every stage of their product development.

With women being both the creators and the beneficiaries of their unique products, it is obvious to see why women’s empowerment is a core business strategy of theirs. This is demonstrated by their ‘Women Go Beyond’ programme, which, in the last 15 years has made an unparalleled impact on female employees, the garment industry and Sri Lanka generally.

The programme is built on four key pillars; career development, work-life balance, skill development and rewarding excellence with an annual Awards Gala ‘Abhimani’, celebrating the exceptional achievements of its female employees. WGB also has instated gender-specific health and awareness programmes, as well as childcare facilities to help provide physical and emotional support for its women workers.

 

Community and environmental wellbeing

MAS is deeply focused on corporate responsibility because they believe being a good corporate citizen means actually supporting the communities in which they work. When talking about women’s empowerment as core to their business strategy and the considerable resources they are investing in the sustainability and environmental impact of their factories, one senior employee told us,

 

 “It’s not a marketing strategy to us, it’s just what we do here.”

 

In addition to corporate governance, MAS consciously drives a common strategy that they hope by 2025 will create a sustainable business that has positive environmental and social impact wherever they operate. 50% of MAS already runs on renewable energy. Their ambitious climate action goal to generate more renewable energy than they use will keep adding to this over the coming years thanks to a massive 28 MW solar investment that will span across 2 Mn square feet on MAS rooftops across Sri Lanka. By 2025 MAS also want to be using all their waste as a resource or a raw material and be zero toxic in their products, processes and supply chains.

Image: MAS Holdings

In MAS’s vision to make Sri Lanka an ethical destination for responsible business to thrive, they intend to tackle national issues from ocean plastic to deforestation. MAS’s biodiversity goals aim to restore habitats across 25,000 acres by 2025, to replace the space they occupy by 100 times. They have already begun growing, conserving and restoring habitats across 1,000 acres in this battle to make a radical difference.

 

Corporate venturing: Investing in women-centered start-ups in the FemTech space

As you can see, MAS is well on its way to creating impact beyond financial gain. Looking forward, MAS is now starting to look into how it can turn to corporate venturing as a way to continue supporting FemTech and women-centered design. With their strategic interest in innovative products and technology that address women’s needs across the lifecycle, MAS would love to meet new entrepreneurs and startups whose vision aligns with theirs.

 

Contact us at info@mhhub.org if you would like to have an intro to get in touch with MAS!

 

We’ll be telling more stories about our partner MAS and other great innovators across the menstrual health space in coming posts, so subscribe to the menstrual memo to make sure you don’t miss them!

[1] When we say women, we refer to the majority of people who menstruate although we acknowledge that not all women menstruate and not all those who menstruate identify as women.