Medical student's GudNeSs bars fight anemia in India
Medical student Rajvi Mehta’s GudNeSs bars for fighting anemia continues to be a successful entrepreneurial venture as she currently works on expanding distribution to South India.
GudNeSs bars is the product of Mehta’s Let’s be Well RED organization, which aims to spread awareness about iron-deficiency and make GudNeSs bars accessible to every anemic individual in India. Each bar contains 14 mg of iron, the World Health Organization's recommendation of daily dosage, Mehta said.
The organization began in 2010 when Mehta was a sophomore at Brown University and became anemic.
“When I got tested, I realized that there are over 900 million people in India who suffer from iron deficiency anemia,” Mehta said. “It’s a huge problem because it’s a major silent killer and underlying cause over 65 percent of all maternal and fetal deaths in the country.”
Mehta said she began studying different government programs that focused on anemia in India and identified loopholes in those programs, such as a lack of awareness about the importance of iron or a lack of nutritional guidance.
“I wanted to create a model program to combat anemia and fill in those gaps," Mehta added.
After spending time in the urban slums of Mumbai during the summer of 2011, Mehta realized that many women were asking for one single food product that they could have every day to meet the needed iron level requirements, rather than being told to eat several different items.
“This led to the creation of GudNeSs bars because when I surveyed the Indian market, I didn’t find any products that had the adequate amount of iron,” she said.
GudNeSs bars, made with local ingredients, was then launched in 2012 and over 100,000 bars have been sold since.
“We gets orders from NGOs, from schools, from individuals, and we’re working with the government to introduce these bars into daily meals in government schools,” Mehta said.
Through partnerships with the government and NGOs such as the Nargisdutt Foundation, Family Planning Association of India, as well donations from larger corporations and individuals in India, GudNeSs bars are subsidized to a price of ten Indian rupees, the equivalent of 16 U.S. cents, in urban areas. GudNeSs bars are further subsidized in rural areas and slums to two rupees, the equivalent of three U.S. cents.
Recently, Let's Be Well RED has been receiving a lot of orders from South India, so the organization is currently “looking to improve streamline distribution in the West and establish production and distribution channels in the South,” Mehta said.
She added that the global campaigns, which raised $11,000, helped expand the product to the South.
“At the undergraduate level, we are aiming to hold fundraising events of all kinds along with anemia awareness and educational events, discussions and even anemia testings on campus," said Sheel Patel, co-president of the Let's Be Well RED Duke Undergraduate Chapter. “Overall I think the cause is incredible and it is very feasible to ameliorate anemia in India because it is very preventable with the right diet and education.”
Patel said Duke's Awaaz performance helped raise a minimum of $4,000 for Let's Be Well RED, contributing to the subsidization of 12,000 GudNeSs bars.
Freshman Shivee Gilja said she recently found out that she was part of the 80 percent of Indians who have anemia, making Let's Be Well RED “close to [her] heart.”
“I just don’t understand how something so simple as anemia isn’t being tackled quickly and easily,” Gilja said. “I guess that’s exactly what 'Let’s be Well RED' is trying to do.”
Gilja will expand Let's Be Well Red to Lucknow, India this summer.