Sanitary Pad for Just Rupee One - “Made in India”. Captivating story of a school drop-out who invented the low-cost Machine.
Newly-wedded wife’s quandary.
Arunachalam Muruganantham’s wife was the reason for his invention of the low-cost sanitary pad machine and a PAD costing Rupee One ONLY. He couldn’t bear to see his wife Shanti picking up rags and old cloth pieces to use each month during your menstrual cycle. He was perturbed and disturbed that because of his meager income from working as a tool operator, supplying food and doing odd jobs, that his wife had to compromise and simply couldn’t afford to buy these expensive Pads. The unimaginable story that began in 1998 soon after their marriage.
Rough, Dirty and a BLOODY Road.
- A school drop-out at 14 who grew up in absolute poverty, with a hand to mouth living and just married; could barely think of an idea to help his wife and other such women in our rural India. Apart from the idea, to even broach a topic like Menstruation and Sanitary Pads in the tiny village he lived is considered a “TABOO”. Nevertheless, he began talking and was abruptly snubbed, called a pervert, mocked at and eventually isolated.
- Reverse Engineering is what he did and initially thought using only Cotton would do the trick but his first sample was flatly rejected by his wife and sister. After a couple of years, he realized that cellulose fibers which are a pulp extract from the bark of a pine wood had to be mixed with cotton and polymers which helped the pads absorb.
- All this material had to go through a grinding machine, pressed, disinfected and then exposed to ultraviolet and polyethylene was used for the leak-proof layer. A few samples were made manually at home.
- The big challenge of testing: The cumbersome process of making the home-made Pads was done; but where does one get them tested so that he could market in large numbers. He approached a few women volunteers who of course refused and even if there were labs or equipment available, it was beyond his capacity. He decided to take it on himself and one will be shocked and surprised at what he did but will surely salute this Menstrual or Pad Man as he is often referred to. He wore the Sanitary PAD, attached it to the pipes and filled goat’s blood into a football bladder and started walking, running and riding and simultaneously pumped the bladder at regular intervals for the blood flow. He then distributed free samples to some medical students and tests came out clear and he was more than satisfied that his long years of hard work finally bore fruit.
- Hygiene: The rural Indian women were using traditional cloth pieces and he apart from trying to find a low-cost pad wanted to create awareness on the hygiene and health aspects too. He worked on not using any chemicals and any artificial colors, adhesives etc., The pads are biodegradable and can be easily burnt and disposed of.
- Mini-Machine Innovation: He was forced to make a very very simple machine so that the rural women themselves could maintain and repair if required. Few of his “Make in India” Mini-low-cost easy to handle machines were ready for the bigger trial.
- Exhibit: He presented his Innovation at IIT Madras, who were so inspired that they registered him for the National Innovation Foundation's Grassroots Technological Innovations Award and won the award. With this, he was able to raise seed funding and formed his own company Jayaashree Industries.
- Mass Production: Jayaashree Industries manufactured a few Mini-Machines and evaluated and further tested and went in for commercial purposes.
- Helping Rural women: His focus was and will always be to help the rural and below poverty level women. The cost of Mini-Machine was just Rs. 75,000 to 2 lakhs as opposed to the imported machine which is approximately 30 Lakhs. The cost of each Sanitary Pad is just about Rupee 1.00 and Rupees 1.50 as compared to Rs 5 plus taxes Videshi ones.
- Marketing strategy: He didn’t want to go the MNC way firstly to avoid the overheads of setting up large units which will automatically increase the cost. Moreover, he is not here to chase money but to sincerely help the rural women. He was keen on lending a helping hand to the women self-help groups and other NGOs by providing the machine and supplying the raw materials which can cater to small areas in and around. Kanika is one such NGO in Kerala run by a 65-year-old lady Vasanthi Gopalan, who has taken the machine and sells the pads under the name “Soukhyam”
- Today he has installed his wonder Mini-Machines in almost all the states and sold over 1000 machines and is eyeing the international market.
His newly-wedded wife Shanti was so shocked when he asked her about her periods and pads, that she almost slapped him. His wife would just walk away from this testing area in anger and not talk for days on end and probably thought she had to put up with a crazy husband. Villagers thought he was pervert, crazy to talk and discuss about Periods and Pads, mocked him and looked down in a derogatory manner and even ostracised him. A few learned English speaking people thought he was off his rockers and laughed when he spoke in his butler English about his mission. Mom was totally disgusted and angry to see used and smelly pads being torn and thrown around for his test which she had to tolerate for years. A Man broaching the sensitive subject to the rural women and showing how it works must have been the most embarrassing moment. Of course, no Man will like to wear a sanitary PAD and walk about pumping blood from a dummy bladder.
Watch out for the “PADMAN” Movie scheduled for release on 9th February 2018. Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, and Radhika Apte will feature along with the great legend Amitabji.
A few documentaries and YouTube videos are doing the rounds and he has been on the TedX as well. In 2014 he was recognized as 100 Most Influential People in World by Time Magazine. “Jewel of Coimbatore” was awarded by Rotary. 2016 he received the Padma Shri.
Bookofachievers.com wishes “PAD-MAN” success at the box office.
Twinkle Khanna at Oxford About Arunachalam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGJ6uqIH-AA
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