Think of a hawker carrying a belly tray at a busy traffic junction, a bus station or in a cricket stadium and peddling not sweets and snacks, but female contraceptives!
India may not be ready for it now, but the innovative concept has already sparked huge interest in a number of countries, Beatrijs Janssen, a healthcare expert from the Netherlands, says.
"I have already demonstrated it for promotion at conferences in several countries," Janssen says.
Being a woman, she knows the importance of female condoms to ward off not just unwanted pregnancies, but also the menace of deadly HIV/AIDS.
Unsurprisingly, she has become the cynosure of hundreds of healthcare experts gathered at the ongoing first Global Health Conference on Social Marketing and Social Franchising, organised by HLFPPT, a not-for-profit trust promoted by the mini-Ratna public sector enterprise HLL Lifecare Ltd, here.
Janssen is the Communication Advisor to Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC), a joint programme launched in 2009 by four organisations (Oxfam Novib, Rutgers WPF, i+solutions and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) with the aim of making female condoms accessible and affordable for all.
The Dutch health activist is serious about popularising the novel concept. To promote the idea and create awareness, she, along with other activists, has been working around the globe for the last four months, carrying the belly tray laden with a range of female condoms.
India can take pride in the fact that the contraceptives on the tray include the ones manufactured by HLL Lifecare Ltd. "I am not sure about India, but it can soon be a reality as a marketing tool and a way of selling condoms. We have to modify these trays as per the preferences of the local people," Janssen says.
"We thought about this idea, just like the system of selling goodies at football stands. The prime focus is to have mobility, instead of a stationary booth to sell condoms.
Another key focus is to remove inhibitions about contraceptives. I understand that in India also, people are reluctant to ask for a contraceptive in a drug store."
At present, the belly tray is being used for promotions. "But we are also thinking of making it a full-fledged tool to sell condoms at least in countries like Nigeria, Cameroon and Mozambique where we are actively working," she says.
Under the UAFC, various organisations have already tried ingenious tools for marketing condoms. They have inducted female hair dressers to