Aashika Paul (name changed) is a 29-year-old entrepreneur and social worker from Mumbai.
I am 29-years-old, single and female. And I like to talk about sex. So much that I made it my business! Yes, you read that right. I run an e-commerce business that sells female sexual health and pleasure products. I started my venture four years ago. It's been a challenging but fulfilling journey. Challenging because sexual health and pleasure are difficult topics to discuss and work on in our country. Fulfilling, as I feel that I have been able to make a difference.
Ever since college, my wish has been to bring out conversations about women's sexuality in the open. I finished my studies in public health from an institute in Delhi and bagged my first internship at a women's rights NGO in Mumbai. That gave me a first-hand experience to the problems and issues with women's health and rights in India. Through my research work, I learned that women, especially from the lower economic background, knew very little or had wrong information about sexual health or pleasure.
Fuelling the passion
My inspiration to work on empowering women was drawn from all the cat-calling, eve teasing and street sexual harassment experiences women have shared with me. When I confessed by thoughts about starting a website for female sexual health products to my boyfriend, he snubbed me. I broke up instantly because I didn't want a future with a man who thought women shouldn't make choices for themselves.
I was lucky that my mother backed me then. She encouraged me and fuelled the passion in me to work towards my dream.
After finishing college, a lot of my family members were interested in knowing what I was up to. They even tried to set me up with some boys in the network. They were hoping that I'd get married soon, just like my other sisters in the family.
Another incident that propelled me to jump in this line of work happened in college. One of my friend's partner ignored contraception and got pregnant. She didn’t want to continue with her pregnancy and couldn’t seek help openly. I promised to be by her side.
Her abortion was a very difficult phase. Both for her and for me. I am glad that I supported her. That incident made me feel how important it was for women to have safe access to contraception and abortion services.
I also found out there was a gap with regard to in easy and safe access to products related to sexual health and pleasure for women. This got me thinking about creating an online platform for such products.
Before starting out on my venture, I spoke to a number of women who told me that could never imagine discussing sex openly or easily avail related services and products. These conversations made the gaps evident that I aimed to fulfil with my service.
I am happy that over the last four years, the number of female customers using sexual wellness products on our site has increased by 20 percent.
Through my venture, I have also tried to address the sexual needs of women. We have reached out to thousands of young women in urban and rural spaces. We help them understand their sexual health better. Our website has also helped many women talk to necessary experts who have had questions and doubts about their bodies.
Towards female pleasure
Today, with the help of two other women partners, my business has scaled higher. We deliver female sexual health and pleasure products to hundreds of women across the world. We have also received quite positive feedback from customers. Some of them even want to invest in us and support us. The goal of our venture is to reach out to more women and help them own their sexuality.
I think that lack of access to resources prevents empowerment. This is also true for sexual empowerment. I hope that through our website, we will be able to connect more women to sexual resources, product and services and promote female sexual empowerment. One step at a time and we are working towards fulfilling it.
To protect her privacy, the person in the photo is not Aashika.