Arunanchalam Muruganantham is the pioneer of low-cost sanitary pads in India. He created low-cost sanitary pads to generate awareness in India, as women were engaged in the traditional unhygienic practices of menstruation in the rural part of India – many women still use a cloth that makes them prone to bacterial infections and other diseases.
Muruganantham is from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Born in 1962, he lived his entire life in poverty as his father died in a road accident when Muruganantham was young. Muruganantham’s mother was a farm labourer and she worked to help him financially for his education.
Arunanchalam dropped out of school at the age of 14 due to a financial crisis and started doing the work of a welder, machine tool operator and yam selling agent to support his family.
Arunanchalam Muruganantham discovered the practices behind menstruation and how it considered being a social taboo when it personally affected him; after he married his wife Shanti, in the year of 1998. His wife was using dirty rags and newspapers during the time of menstrual cycles because sanitary napkins were not affordable.
Eventually, Muruganantham started designing and experimenting with the sanitary pads, making it out of cotton. These pads were rejected by Muruganantham’s wife and sisters too, and he became a subject of ridicule across the whole village.
While making the pad, he got to know that the raw material cost is around 40 paise, but the finished product is 40 times more the price. Muruganantham was looking for volunteers but women were very shy to discuss the issue of the menstrual cycle let alone help him. But all of these obstacles never stopped him from making a low-cost sanitary pad. In the end, Muruganantham started using the pad on himself, by using a bladder with animal blood.
Eventually, he started distributing the pads to the girls in the local college for free, and they returned to him for more after using them.
Hard work done pays off always, as Muruganantham took many years to know that, big companies who manufacture the sanitary (commercial) pads comprised of an ingredient of ‘cellulose’. The cellulose fibres came from pine bark’s wood pulp. The work of the fibres in the pad was to absorb liquid and keep them in the same shape. He got to know that the machine used by the big companies cost around 35 million rupees.
Muruganantham then found a supplier in Mumbai to process the pinewood pulp, and then process out the whole into a finished product. Muruganantham found a machine that cost around Rs 65,000.
In the year of 2006, Muruganantham visited IIT Madras to showcase his idea and consider suggestions. He won Grassroots Technological Innovations Award from the National Innovation Foundation and received funding.
Today, Jayaashree industries provide these machines which make low-cost sanitary pads to rural women in India. Here is how the machine works:
Muruganaantham has become a social entrepreneur, and his invention has won him many awards and accolades. Muruganantham’s machine helped in generation of jobs for the women in India, and he only provides machines to self-help groups run by women. His sanitary pad machines have been installed in 23 states out of 29 states in India.
According to his website, newinventions.in, “Muruganantham for his accomplishments and well-deserved recognition as Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2014. He is in the company of the likes of Narendra Modi, Barack Obama, Serena Williams, Ronaldo, Xi Jinping, Jeff Bezos, Malala, Shinzo Abe, Beyonce, Putin, Arundhati Roy, Hilary Clinton etc., to name a few of the 100.”
On this website, he says, “Creating one Million livelihoods for poor women and making India as 100 % sanitary napkin using country from the current level of only 2% in rural also it will generate employment for one million women. No one is bothered about uneducated and illiterate people. Through this model, they can live with dignity.”
Currently, superstar Akshay Kumar is shooting for a movie that is based on Arunanchalam Muruganantham’s life named Padman, which is directed by R. Balki. The movie is all set to release on February 9, 2018, and also stars Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte in the lead roles.