At the age of 17, Akriti Gupta took a close look at the lives of cancer patients and those who had overcome them. In 2015, his father was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer. During regular hospital visits, Akriti and her mother Kavita Gupta learned about several breast cancer patients and learned about their difficulties in finding a quality inexpensive breast prosthesis in the market.
Those that were available were either too expensive or the cheaper alternative was foam-based and of poor quality which adversely affected their health.
This inspired him to take the entrepreneurial path and launched Canfem for a social benefit. Located in Haryana, it provides affordable and quality breast prostheses and mastectomy bras for breast cancer patients and Survivors in India. The niche market for breast prosthesis is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9 percent between 2020 and 2027.
Comfortable and healthy solution
At that time social worker Kavita Gupta knew about different types of clothes and their quality.
They both tried different types of clothes and developed a prototype for a breast prosthesis. During the seven months spent in the hospital, he would offer prototypes for doctors and work on them based on their feedback. He continued to consult doctors with every revision and spoke with breast cancer patients at the hospital until he had completed the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Officially launched in February last year, with approval from All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Tata Memorial Center Hospital, Canfem currently specializes in two products; Breast prostheses and a cancer bra, which is a mastectomy bra with pockets.
The sizes are available in three sizes (triangle, round and drop), priced between Rs 499 and Rs 1999. Akriti says that they shape and customize as per requests.
“We also take into consideration the purchasing power of Indian customers and geographic features and focus on design that is comfortable to wear in a hot and humid climate.”
Both have developed two techniques for the process of manufacturing each product. While the technology has been patented for manufacturing prostheses, they have applied for a copyright for the mastectomy bra.
Entrepreneurs are seeking distribution partnerships with organizations and hospitals that are working with cancer patients and Survivors. They are currently in touch with some NGOs and clinics in Rajasthan and Bengaluru and place orders across India through their website and WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, Akriti decided to strengthen her entrepreneurial journey by doing a Master of Social Entrepreneurship from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He also made his first move with entrepreneurship in 2015.
To ease his family’s financial burden while his father was undergoing treatment, he began making homemade chocolates to meet his daily expenses as a college student. Named Akriti’s Chokolds, she also conducted workshops for family members of cancer patients who were facing financial troubles.
Physical change and mental well-being
According to the Cytecare Cancer Hospital, in India, every four minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Akriti states that most women undergo a mastectomy (a surgery to remove breast tissue) due to late stage diagnosis, mainly due to lack of awareness and health facilities. Most women go through a mast to remove as much cancer as possible to restore breast size post, or relieve symptoms of advanced cancer.
However, the results in their bodies often affect their mental health. The 22-year-old pursued this in her thesis for the master’s program, saying that the mental wellbeing of women undergoing surgery needed to be addressed.
After interacting with many doctors, cancer servants and patients, she says, “The urgency has further ignited the fire in me that what I am doing is very important.”
While working with breast cancer survivors, Akriti said that many people had a hard time coping with the trauma of mastectomy and that it was somewhat easier to restore their body weight with breast prostheses that achieved dignity and self-esteem. Helps in He learned that many people isolate themselves socially and feel incomplete.
For most, cancer is similar to capital punishment. Akriti’s early association with the fatal disease also showed her that most educated youth of her age are unaware of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
During that time, he started an awareness campaign on college campuses through sports and activities that have grown to include more than 150 Delhi University students. Currently, she is heading Win Over Cancer, a non-profit organization started by Arun Gupta, a chartered accountant and cancer surveyor.
A Global Action Poverty (GAP) changemaker, awarded “Young Leader Creating Better World for All” by the Women’s Economic Forum, Akriti is helping breast cancer survivors with the gift of comfort and confidence.