Kochi, Dec 4 IANS | 2 years ago

Beatrijs Janssen, a healthcare expert from the Netherlands, carries around female condoms on a belly tray, attracting much attention at a conference in this Kerala city.

The question, however, is whether this unique marketing trend will make an impact here.

A belly tray, a portable tray slung around the neck and hanging near the belly, is a device that helps vendors move around as they sell their wares.

"I have already demonstrated this for promotion at conferences in several countries," Janssen said, at a conference being held here.

Being a woman, Janssen is only too conscious of the importance of female condoms -- they ward off unwanted pregnancies, and also help prevent venereal disease and infection from viruses like HIV/AIDS.

"India may not be ready for it now, but the innovative concept has already sparked huge interest in a number of countries," said Janssen.

Those gathered at the ongoing first Global Health Conference on Social Marketing and Social Franchising, organised by Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT), no-profit group promoted by public sector enterprise HLL Lifecare Ltd, are now well acquainted with Janssen and her marketing device.

Janssen works as communications advisor with 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. The aim of her organisation is to make female condoms accessible, affordable and available to all.

Along with other activists, Janssen has been travelling the world, carrying the belly tray laden with female condoms.

India can take pride in the fact that the contraceptives on the tray include 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 local people," Janssen said.

"The condoms will be sold like goodies at the football stands. The prime focus is to have mobility, instead of being limited to a stationary booth. Another key focus is to remove the inhibitions about contraceptives. I understand that in India also people are reluctant to ask for a contraceptive in a drug store," she said.

At present, the belly tray is being used for promotions only.

"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," Janssen said.

Various organisations have already tried ingenious tools for marketing condoms, including inducting female hair dressers to sell the female condoms, as African women spend a lot of time on their hair-do.

"There is no barrier on communication about condoms in a female beauty parlour," she said.

Janssen said people were curious to learn about the products when they were displayed openly, and the response was encouraging.

"We do not promote any exclusive brand. The exercise is also being done to increase the awareness about the usefulness of female condoms," she said, adding that there was no sexist bias in the promotion of female condoms.

"In fact, half our volunteers are men. We have to make the men also aware of the utility of female condoms," she said.

(Posted on 04-12-2013)