If most rural women have access to economical and hygienic sanitary napkins, it is because of a great inventor and visionary named Arunachalam Muruganantham.
The story began in 1998 when Arunachalam once saw his wife, Shanthi use old rags during her menstruation. He obviously was shocked and pained at the same. Out of concern for her health and hygiene, he asked his wife why she wasn’t using sanitary napkins available in the shops. Upon which, his wife stated that buying sanitary napkins would mean doing away with basic household essentials and groceries.
Sensing he had to choose between his wife’s health and hygiene and providing meals for his family, he decided to do something about this. And so, he embarked on a quest to make hygienic sanitary napkins for his wife and became the first man to wear a sanitary napkin.
Who knew, his determination will bring about a permanent respite to millions of rural women across India as well as provide employment and a means of livelihood to millions of rural men.
With some research, Arunachalam started off by buying a cotton roll which he cut it in the size of other sanitary pads sold in markets. He then wrapped the sanitary napkin shaped cotton roll with a thin layer of cotton. With everything set, he then requested his wife to use it and give him feedback. After a couple of days, the feedback came and it wasn’t impressive.
Shanthi said the sanitary napkin was good for nothing and that she would rather continue using old rags over this useless piece of cotton roll created by him.
For a while, he paid attention to understand the difference between the sanitary napkins sold in the shops and the one he created. Having experimented with different materials by now, Arunachalam soon realised this once simple task had now turned into an excruciatingly daunting task which was costing him a lot, not just financially but personally too.
Realising he had to wait for a month for his wife to menstruate and use his product, he decided to test the sanitary napkins himself.
Arunchalam then created a fake uterus using a football and punching holes into it. He then contacted his butcher friend so that he could use animal blood instead of waiting for volunteers to use his pads. He filled the uterus with goat’s blood and wore the sanitary napkin. He ran, jogged, and did pretty much everything just to check the absorption rate of the sanitary napkin. While at it, he stained his clothes and began smelling foul.
To make it worse, around this time, his curiosity (or obsession) with sanitary napkins had spread like wildfire.
His neighbours began looking at him with hatred and disgust and his village ostracised him thinking he was possessed by evil spirits, and finally fed up with all this, his wife decided to leave him thinking he was a mentally sick pervert.
With his wife gone and no way of getting a feedback on his next product, what next, he thought on a logical note. He then decided to convince a few female students from a nearby medical college to use his sanitary napkins and give him feedback. The girls were shy and embarrassed to talk about it in detail. And the few who did were not convincing enough for Arunachalam to believe. At the end of the day, even that plan didn’t work the way he thought.
All in all, he had become an isolated scapegoat in this journey. He could have quit, but Arunachalam chose not to.
After 2 years of constant research and countless experiments, he finally cracked the code for the right material used in making sanitary napkins. And 4 years on, he found a way to process sanitary napkins in the most economical way possible.
And today, with his unbending sincerity and dedication, he is the humble owner of Jayashree Industries that designed world’s first low-cost machine to produce sanitary napkins. His remarkable journey from a regular workshop worker to becoming the “Menstrual Man Of India” has been captured in a documentary film by Amit Virmani. His lucrative business model was also filmed in TED Global Talent Search, Bangalore.
In 2006, Arunachalam received an award for best innovation for the betterment of the society from Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai.
In 2014, Arunachalam Muruganantham was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In The World.
As of today, several multinational companies have expressed their interest in buying his sanitary napkin machine but he has clearly refused. Muruganantham says, “Creating one Million livelihoods for poor women and making India as 100 % sanitary napkin using country from 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.” (sic)
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