Gone are the days when terms like “menstruation” and “periods” were mentioned in hushed tones. A brilliant entrepreneur created history by not only breaking all the taboo around this natural biological phenomenon but also by creating low-cost sanitary pads for women across rural India. Yes, this episode of inspiring entrepreneurs is all about creating a social revolution, and the man behind this mind-boggling initiative is Arunachalam Muruganantham.
What started as a small-time, low-cost machine used to create sanitary pads in 2004 is now a full-fledged company in the city of Coimbatore, reaching women across almost 5000 villages in India to sell amazingly low-cost sanitary napkins. Let’s find out more about this impressive personality.
The seeds of this revolutionary initiative were sown after his marriage, when he realized that his wife had no choice but to adopt unhygienic practices to handle her menstrual periods. He realized with a shock that this practice made his wife and other women quite vulnerable to infections. When he asked why women did not use a better option, he realized that sanitary napkins were quite a luxury, given their cost and the dent these products would create on their monthly income. This is when he took his first step on this inspirational journey.
The days of experimentation
His first assessment of the sanitary napkin that he bought indicted that it was cotton, a material he could quite easily source. He wondered why sanitary napkins were such costly products. So, in 2000, he proceeded with his first attempt at making the affordable sanitary napkin for his first customer – his wife. He used cotton wrapped carefully and hygienically in clean, medical cloth. Unfortunately, this attempt was a failure since his wife gave him the feedback that these napkins were extremely inefficient.
Further research confirmed his fears that the sanitary napkins needed much more work. He dedicated his entire days and nights researching about what makes a stable sanitary napkin. He finally zeroed in on cellulose fibers from the wood pulp of the pine bark. But with that came the sinking realization that the process of manufacturing the napkins was not that simple – it required machines.
First attempts and challenges
With no funds to make any huge investment, Mr. Muruganantham continued his research to develop all the machinery he required. He finally learned the technique and he successfully designed and created machines that could create perfectly functional sanitary napkins. He could easily house these machines within a very limited space, and he did not require any mega investments.
Of course it took many months – about a year and a half or so – to build a whole lot of machines so he could start bulk production. Mr. Muruganantham’s goal was clear. Once he achieved success with the machines and tested his technology, Mr. Muruganantham distributed these machines across many Indian states.
Mr. Muruganantham’s achievements
Mr. Muruganantham’s company, named Jayaashree Industries, today excels in bulk production of sanitary napkins at a mind-bogglingly reasonable rate. He does not just sell his products at a low cost, but also sells the machines across all Indian states. But there’s just one condition – his initiatives are only through women’s cooperatives.
He teaches women to be self-reliant, not just in overcoming the challenge of managing their periods safely and with confidence but also in earning a sustainable living out of this effort. His inspirational story hit the silver screens about a year back and the whole world got to know this humble genius. Mr. Muruganantham has won many accolades for his brilliant social initiative, right from IIT Madras to the much revered Padma Shri.
Creating a social revolution from just an observation or an incident is what differentiates the ordinary from the great. Indeed, Mr. Muruganantham has truly proved to the whole world what a mighty soul he is. He is the true business mentor anyone can ask for. If this is not inspiring to budding entrepreneurs, what else can ever be?