Power to the powder room

Updated: Dec 14, 2019, 09:02 IST | Nasrin Modak Siddiqi | Mumbai

A ladies washroom that doubles up as a powder room and a space where women can download their feelings. Woloo is that and a lot more

Women's hygiene products at the outlet. Pics/Sameer Markande
Women's hygiene products at the outlet. Pics/Sameer Markande

I have lost track of the number of times I have used the washroom facilities at the McDonald's outlet outside Thane West railway station during my college days and work life. I'd often buy fries or burger — mostly as a sort of thank you — for having used a facility where women could pee safely and in somewhat hygienic conditions.

While I don't have to visit the station these days, I'm told the area is extremely crowded during peak hours. Recently, friends on my school WhatsApp group had posted about India's first powder room for women near the station with services like tea-coffee, water, sanitary pads, branded undergarments, sewing kits, beauty products, melodious music and chocolates. It seemed like it was all too good to be true.

Women's hygiene products at the outlet

Eager, to check it out, we headed to Thane one afternoon. However, finding the place can be a challenge, considering it is not on Google Maps yet. An auto rickshawwallah directed us to the famous Khandelwal lane where Woloo — Women's Powder Room is located. As we knocked on the glass door, a lady attendant welcomed us into a tiny, well-planned lobby.

The grey-yellow decor won us over immediately. After paying R20 for entry, a tag with the number of the assigned washroom was handed over and we step in. Inside, the space is small (with only five washrooms and two small basins) but it was sparkling clean and smelled good. The melodious music bit was true, too. Not to my taste though — but true.

The coffee machine
The coffee machine

We sat down for a cup of coffee (R20), and watched the crowds go by in waves outside. The attendant, Farzana, was extremely polite and friendly. She asked us if we were regular commuters so we could avail the nominal monthly subscription of R99 (that makes it R3 per usage). There is another subscription of R499 per month (or 30 uses, whichever is first), where ladies get to choose between a complimentary cup of tea, coffee, water and sanitary napkin with every use.

The concept was initiated by social entrepreneur Manish Kelshikar. Talking about the idea, Woloo's CEO and co-founder Shivkala Mudaliar says, "Besides starting a place that provides hygiene access for urban women, we also realised that women don't have a space for 'me' time — we always compromise on that when we think of ourselves. We wanted to design a space where she can come, be herself and have some me time while interacting with us. Woloo is about that space and support system that a woman wants for herself in her daily life." We left with a bit of good news too — the founders have plans to open at least 100 more Woloos across the city by next year.

Power to the powder room

At Woloo Women's Powder Room, next to Khandelwal Sweets, near Thane West railway station.
Time 8 am to 10 pm
Entry Rs 20 onwards (per visit)

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