Interview with Ginnymarie Mendis & Shashika Wijesinghe
FemTech at MAS is focused on innovating solutions for all stages of women
MAS Holdings, the largest apparel tech company in South Asia, is a leading concept-to-delivery solution provider in apparel and textile manufacturing, sought after by the world’s leading brands. MAS began its foray into the feminine hygiene technology (FemTech) space in 2014, as it researched urinary incontinence underwear products. Since then, MAS has continued to develop products for the FemTech market and now also offers cooling and temperature regulating clothing as a solution for menopause challenges under its own brand Become, as well as reusable nursing pads for new mothers, among other products. In an interview with TechnicalTextile.net, Ginnymarie Mendis, Chief of Innovation, and Shashika Wijesinghe, Technology Lead at FemTech at MAS Holdings discuss reusable absorbent underwear and the feminine hygiene market.
TT: MAS Holdings is known for innovations. Which are the main ones with which people associate your company?
As one of South Asia’s leading apparel tech companies, with a business portfolio of over $2 billion, innovation is an integral part of our business. With 30+ years of manufacturing for some of the world’s leading brands, MAS has unparalleled knowledge of the human body and biomechanics, as well as fabric wearability and material science, which has enabled us to stake claim to over 50 disruptive technologies across materials, lighting, heating, odour-protection, and aqua-repellency. If we shift focus to the FemTech industry specifically, we have developed a variety of proprietary patented tech solutions for pain points women face at different stages of their lives, from menarche (that’s a girl’s first period) through to menopause and everything in between. The main technologies associated with FemTech include our range of: Reusable/Washable Absorbent Underwear which incorporates advanced absorbency to manage menstruation, urinary incontinence or vaginal discharge; Advanced Absorbent Nursing Pads to help avoid breastmilk leakage; Antiflush thermoregulation technology that helps manage the dreaded hotflush during menopause and finally our Active Heating technology which incorporates Rechargeable, Portable, Breathable and Washable heating technology woven into surfaces that help relieve menstrual pain.
TT: How did you come up with idea of FemTech for MAS?
As an innovation organisation we are and have always been curious about new trends and technology that could disrupt the norm. When we started exploring solutions to improve women’s health and well-being in 2014, the term FemTech did not even exist (it was only coined in 2016). If we dial it back a bit – it’s quite obvious that women’s health and wellness needs are unique, and often under-represented in mainstream healthcare. We, at MAS, wanted women’s health to take on a higher position in society (as it should have always) and so we were committed to improving women’s lives through our solutions as part of FemTech. We were determined to offer superior functionality and performance without compromising on fashion and so everything we do, started with our consumers best interest in mind. As a result, ‘FemTech’ for us at the time, was all about satisfying women’s unmet needs and helping them live their life as normal as possible through all stages of life, using wearable technology.
TT: What were some of the major triggers for coming up with FemTech?
If you think about a woman’s life – starting from menarche to pregnancy, childbirth and finally to menopause, we can safely say being a woman is never dull. One of the biggest triggers for MAS to focus on FemTech was our deep understanding of the body, and how different types of materials drape to provide the best fit. Being a lingerie and performance wear manufacture for three decades, MAS has acquired a great deal of information on fit and drapeability. So, when we looked at consumers wearing disposable liners and pads to avoid leaks, we realised it was a massive opportunity. When it comes to menstruation, a woman roughly goes through a total of 450 periods throughout her life. Additionally, our research also revealed that Urinary Incontinence is the fifth biggest health related problem that has the highest negative impact on the quality of life for women. A staggering 1 in 4 women over the age of 18 experience episodes of leaking urine at some stage in their life. In men, urinary incontinence increases with age, and the incidence of it is thought to be underreported and undertreated. As a whole, this affects more than ~400 million people worldwide – if Urinary Incontinence was a country, it would be the third largest in the world!
Taking all of this into account, we wanted to help people around the world live their lives confidently and as normal as possible without having to think about any condition, which is why we started engineering a functional in-built absorbent underwear that looks and feels just like regular underwear.
TT: How much time did it take to come up with a standardised system for testing reusable absorbent underwear?
It was no easy task; however, it took us close to about a year to create the Global Testing Standard. We carried out several rounds of testing and validation using MAS solutions as well as products in the market to understand optimal user-case scenarios together with Hohenstein Labs, based in Germany.