Canfem is an India-based social enterprise that enables breast cancer survivors to have a better quality of life by manufacturing and marketing unique and affordable product-service solutions.
Canfem's founders are a mother-daughter duo, Kavita Gupta and Akriti Gupta. They have been working in the field of cancer for more than five years. Kavita's husband and Akriti's father, Arun, was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer. In 2015 when his treatment started, during his hospital visits, Kavita and Akriti started interacting with cancer patients and doctors and started getting to know the problems in depth. That is when they started working towards the cause in addressing issues that breast cancer patients face, first through an NGO, Win Over Cancer, and now via Canfem.
Kavita is a first-generation entrepreneur and inventor of breast prosthesis. During her stint with Win Over Cancer (NGO), Kavita has interacted with thousands of breast cancer patients and survivors, doctors, and other stakeholders. This has given her great market insights and understanding of the ecosystem. She understands the needs of patients and helps in developing consumer-centric solutions as products and services.
Akriti, inspired by her mother and other thousands of breast cancer survivors she has interacted with, is equally passionate about the cause and as a 22-year-old, bring different levels of energy in the venture. In addition, she has researched the problems faced by breast cancer survivors, academically and otherwise. Her academic and practical experience helps her with unique business development initiatives. She strikes balance between sustenance and growth of enterprise along with maximising impact.
With the removal of breasts of breast cancer patients, the weight associated with it is also removed. It creates asymmetry and body disbalance, harming their physical and mental health, impacting their body image, self-confidence and esteem often leading to social isolation. Unaffordability of silicone-based breast prosthesis forces women to use harmful alternatives like stuff toys, baby diapers or even polythene bags which is a big blow on their dignity.
Canfem's focus is on the intersection of advocacy, healthcare, gender sensitivity and product development. There is also an equally vital mission to advocate awareness and self-confidence among the cancer survivors. Canfem manufactures high quality and affordable special products like external breast prosthesis and mastectomy brassier. The manufacturing facility based out of rural India, trains and employs local underprivileged women to manufacture these products.
Canfem's products - external breast prosthesis and mastectomy brassier - enable breast cancer survivors to have better physical and mental health impacting their body image, self-confidence, and esteem issues positively. In addition, these allow women to get back into social spaces with dignity. Breast cancer survivors using Canfem products all over India have shown a 93% satisfaction level. As the products are at just 20% cost of its alternatives, women can afford it and are able to reach to a wider audience.
The products are bio-degradable and environmentally friendly. They are made by a community of marginalised women from rural Haryana who are being paid fair wages. Our training, capability building, and secured employment have also helped them financially and socially and provides them with holistic empowerment. Our team and advisors help them legally and out of situations such as domestic violence, allowing them to achieve digital and financial literacy and give better education to their children.
Canfem has also organized regular online workshops for breast cancer patients and survivors, reaching more than 12,000 people across India and other South Asian countries like Maldives, Nepal and Bangladesh. Not only do these sessions equip them with knowledge from health professionals, it also creates a strong peer support group for patients, survivors, and their caregivers.
This year, with the encouragement from seniors in school, Akriti joined the Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme, organized by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF). It is an eight-month programme aimed at equipping and enabling youths to launch or scale up their social enterprises, with a chance to receive funding. Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, the programme took place virtually for the first time in 11 years. Through the workshops with market leaders and business consultants, useful tips and strategies were shared on managing a social business. Akriti was also matched with a mentor, who shared the importance of re-framing the social impact story in a way that is easily understood in an international context.
For Akriti, it was also very inspiring to be participating alongside other youths with similar passions. The other participating teams were also leading incredible social businesses. Canfem is also shortlisted from 54 other teams for the next stage of the programme, which will culminate at a pitching session next year in March.