Monday, March 10, 2014

Muruganantham’s gift for Women

Image from here
Arunachalam Muruganantham, the founder of Jayashree Industries, India, happens to be the first (and perhaps the only) man to wear a sanitary napkin.

Whoa. Hold on. What? Preposterous!

Those are first words that will come to your mind – but this is not the story of a pervert, but one of dedication, tenacity, perseverance and pure spunk to come up with an inexpensive alternative for costly feminine hygiene products which are used by a paltry 12% of the female Indian population.

Just to rewind the story, Muruganantham was positively aghast when he found out that his wife used filthy rags during her menstrual cycle, since branded feminine hygiene products were too costly to be afforded by his family. On conducting personal research, Muruganantham discovered that apart from rags, majority of the women belonging to rural India used sand, ash and dry leaves for their menstrual cycle – each item being as unhygienic as the previous. According to Muruganantham, the root cause of the problem was what he calls the “triple A problem”, i.e. Affordability, Availability and Awareness. For instance, the costly pricing of sanitary napkins is attributable to the use of high end, sophisticated machinery for manufacturing them which require an initial investment of Rs. 3.5 crores (Approximately 5.7 million USD). Not a small amount, that!

Thereafter, a distressed Muruganantham became determined to experiment and produce sanitary napkins for women, which were both easily accessible and affordable. His years of research and experimentation were an arduous one; his wife and mother left him and he was ostracized and evicted from his village, for he was believed to be possessed for having a deviant obsession. In order to test his products himself, Muruganantham went as far as to create a faux uterus from a football bladder filled with goat blood, and wore it daily. Everyone thought that he had gone crazy, but nothing deterred him. After four and a half years, Muruganantham designed and created a four-step sanitary napkin-making machine which could be made available to a buyer for a nominal cost of Rs.75,000 (Approximately 1300 USD). In the year 2009, his breakthrough invention won the Best National Innovation Award by the then Indian President, Mrs. Pratibha Patil.
The utility of Muruganantham’s machine is not only limited to creating inexpensive sanitary napkins; it can also help generate employment for women. Muruganantham turned down all offers from corporate heavyweights to commercialize his invention. His company, Jayashree Industries, provides these machines to small buyers, such as Women’s Self Help Groups who can use it to create employment for up to 10 women. As of today, the use of these machines has spread to 1,300 villages in 23 states in India. In the long run, Muruganantham hopes to expand, deploy and install these machines to other countries across the world.  
Muruganantham’s story is an inspirational and delightfully happy one. And despite all odds, he has emerged as the unforeseen saviour of women. A thousand claps, and a thousand bows.