Best of INK talks

Arunachalam Muruganantham: The first man to wear a Sanitary Napkin

”No human being dies because of poverty. Everything happens because of ignorance’

Meet Arunachalam Muruganantham, a hero you wouldn’t find in a sea of cameras and autograph seekers. But definitely you would find him in places where there is rural employment for women and much applause for outstanding contribution to society.

From being a small workshop helper to providing employment to lakhs of rural women, Arunachalam has come a long way. But the journey has been nowhere close to easy. Replete with struggles and daily wars, it is a commendable story of its own; a story that needs to be told more and heard more!

Known as the first man to wear a sanitary napkin, Arunachalam was ostracized by the whole of his immediate society as he relentlessly tried to better the lives of the women around him. He is the inventor if India’s only low cost sanitary napkin; a venture that has now empowered the rural female to live life in a better way not only financially but also from the health perspective.

Arunachalam got this idea to make low cost sanitary napkins from his wife Shanti. He was greatly moved by the unhygienic ways which she adopted to manage her period days simply because they were a BPL family and she had to make a tradeoff between a proper sanitary napkin and milk for the family. He bought a napkin, got it tested and realized that the MNCs were selling a 10p cotton piece for Rs 4(this is a 10 yr old rate).

His research began here. He did build a napkin from the cotton he purchased on his own. But we all know how frank Indian women are about periods and related issues with a male doctor, let alone a male workshop helper. The process of seeking feedback was nothing short of a nightmare for him. His wife and sisters didn’t help him much. And medical college girls were of huge help as they filled up false feedback sheets. Then he adopted the most risky method – asking for used napkins! How many would dare to do that?

The risk paid off though. He could finally make out what exactly is contained in those napkins. But the battle doesn’t end here. The main reason why only MNCs deal with production of sanitary napkins is the cost of machinery. A single machine costs around 3.5 crores. But, what can ever deter a man who is on the pursuit of fulfilling his great idea!  He made his own machine at home & started production. The turning point came when he sent the napkin to IIT Madras for evaluation. Without his knowledge, his innovation was submitted in a competition. He won the award for ‘Best Innovation for betterment of society’ and there has been no looking back since then. He not only got the Patent for his innovation but the much necessary thrust to take this brilliance ahead.

But, besides this innovation, what is more commendable is Arunachalam’s perspective towards life and this new found success. He believes that being rich doesn’t mean that one needs to ‘brush his teeth with a gold plated diamond ringed toothbrush.  A simple nylon one would do absolutely fine’. The ignorance he talks about is chasing money! In his same hilarious tone that he maintains during the talk, he questions the learned people what would they do with so much money? Live life better or just survive with a 3 BHK flat in a high rise building and roam around in a fancy car? He doesn’t chase money. He creates lives. He is giving away these machines to women in rural areas so that they can manufacture napkins on their own and live a healthy and dignified life. How many of us would actually do that? Giving away more than what we have earned?

He has this amazing vision of changing the 7% market penetration of sanitary napkins to 100% and creating ‘Not less than 1 Million employment in rural women’. Though, the two women for whom he wanted to create a better life, never understood this initiative and left him mid way. His wife divorced him and his mother also left him because he wore a sanitary napkin. Sad but true!

This talk by Arunachalam is a must watch for reasons more than one. Not only there are lessons galore but also a touch of humor which makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Quoting this unsung hero of our country, “Everyone is trying to survive. Big things but small survival. Am I right or right? You have to agree”. And INK talks agrees and salutes the spirit of Mr Arunachalam Muruganantham for this!


This entry was published on July 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm and is filed under Innovation, Society & Rural India. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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