A Muruganantham -A School Dropout To A Social Entrepreneur

Arunachalam Muruganantham is a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, India. He is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.

The idea of making sanitary napkins first struck him a decade ago when he once saw his wife trying to steal a piece of dirty cloth into the bathroom. He later found out that she used it during menstruation.

The first sanitary napkin he made was cotton wrapped in a medical cloth which he gave to his wife and asked for her feedback. He was disappointed when she said that it was useless and that she was going back to using that piece of dirty cloth.

For more feedback he gave napkins to girls in his locality, but he did not get frank responses from them instead they avoided him. Arunachalum understood that girls were too shy and uncomfortable to talk about menstruation to a man.

He started using the napkin himself. He wore a napkin, tied a football bladder full of goat’s blood to my waist and attached a pipe to it. But this technique did not work either.

His mother made a hue and cry. She thought I had gone mad after seeing his experiments. She left him and went to stay with my sisters. Even his wife left him for days due gossips about him in the the locality.

After continuous failure almost dropping his idea one day he asked the medical college girls to collect their used sanitary napkins and keep them in a corner in one packet. He collected these napkins and opened them in his backyard.

What he found was a thick sheet. he tore the sheet and saw that it was made of fibres. That’s when he realized the importance of fibre in pads. The fibres helped the pads absorb the fluid while retaining shape.

Imported machines that made the pads cost ₹35 million. Now we know why sanitary pads are costly in the market. He made a low cost machine which was only ₹65000. Muruganantham decided devise a low-cost machine that could be operated with minimal training. He also found that jute fibre is one of the best replacements for cotton as healthy production of jute in eastern India. He sourced the Jute fibre and processed pine wood pulp from a supplier in Mumbai.

In 2006, he visited IIT Madras to show his idea and receive suggestions. They registered his invention for the National Innovation Foundation’s Grassroots Technological Innovations Award; it won the award through which he received funding to set up his factory, Jayaashree Industries.The machine has been praised for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, and his commitment to social aid has earned him several awards.

As a result, women’s groups or schools can buy his machine, produce their own sanitary pads, and sell the surplus. In this way, Muruganantham’s machine has created jobs for women in rural India. He has started a revolution in his own country, selling 1,300 machines to 27 states, and has recently begun exporting them to developing countries all over the world.

Under the aegis of his organization Jayashree industries, there are 4500 sanitary pad making factories operating nationwide.

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In 2014, TIME magazine placed him in the list of 100 Most Influential People In The World. Two years later, in 2016, he received the Padma Shri.

A Muruganantham believes that big business is parasitic, like a mosquito, whereas he prefers the lighter touch, like that of a butterfly. “A butterfly can suck honey from the flower without damaging it.”

49 thoughts on “A Muruganantham -A School Dropout To A Social Entrepreneur

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  1. A man of true grit and determination not even for the cause of him or his gender but for the benefit of his wife and the opposite gender. Such people are the ones who should be truly honoured.
    PadMan the Akshay Kumar movie and Twinkle Khanna, shld be appreciated to bring out his story to public and society thru the medium of Cinema.
    And thanks to you too Chiru for posting this under inspirational stories.. ..

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Haan yar this man deserves lot of respect..
      and yes applause to akshay kumar n twinkle khanna for making a biopic…
      U know he was already famous but not widely known.. I feel pity for Tamil cinema for not recognizing him…
      Bollywood should be appreciated for making such kind of films.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I watched his documentary, it was really good. Being in America we have a lot of advantages that other countries don’t. I didn’t even know this was a problem until I watched that doc. I always love hearing about people that go for their dreams, even when others try to bring them down for it. What a great person he is for doing this. He not only taught himself how to fish but he is also teaching everyone else how to as well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes it’s sad that still in many developing countries basic needs feels like a luxurious thing….
      His story is really a eye opener for many of us..
      Thank you for your kind feedback.

      Like

  3. I’ve been following his story for almost 6 years now Chiru! He is a legend. His story makes us believe that Inspirations are born. In spite of so many opposition and thick ignorance, he kept doing what he believed in. I’d written about this awesome guy in a post of mine about gender equality. He rocks yaar! Social workers all over the world where these basic needs are not being met are reaching out to him. A small interview about him in United Nations Women: http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/stories/2014/10/champion-arunachalam-muruganantham

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Loved reading this yesterday… You write in a flowy manner. 😊
      I’ve suggested an idea through your Contacts page. I think it should have come up in your feedbacks. Please check. This is not my forte, hence passing the idea over to you😊😊. Write more articles like this yaar.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. No more words.. he truly is a legend..
      when I read about him I got to know that every single individual insulted him during his early works and it was so difficult to cross all the struggle to make a difference… I have seen his interview back then.. thank you for once again witnessing his speech..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Chiru for this great post. I am from the UK. My mum read an article about him and told me about his, there was an article in one of the British broadsheet newspapers. I also remember reading about him online when the film came out. Such a good man, and a real inspiration. In the west, on sites like etsy and ebay, women are making and selling washable cloth sanitary pads (cotton and bamboo fabric). People say these have been driven by new mums who are not so squeamish about blood, bodies etc, having just given birth, and the homemade ones are often made by mums at home. Of course there are mass produced ones too. Like using reusable nappies for babies, this is borne out of concern for the environment, as well as health concerns re what’s in mass produced sanitary items. Also, and these are now being promoted in some countries in Africa I believe, to help girls who don’t have access to pads etc, there are menstrual cups. A lot of women in UK who are environmentally conscious use these, they are easy and once bought saves the cost of buying disposable items. I am aware that menstruation is still a taboo for some people which does not help women and girls, so well done to you for doing your bit to create open conversations and set a positive example. Thank you

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Your comment made my day Rachel.. it’s great to know that British newspaper has wrote about him….
      Yes in many undeveloped and developing nations still sanitary pads is an issue for women..
      Still in our country women can’t afford sanitary pads.. Muruganantham’s idea has helped many in rural areas… People like him are the real heroes..

      Liked by 1 person

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