Get Things Right

Arunachalam Muruganantham

This poor man hailing from a rural village near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu has brought hygiene to millions of underprivileged Indian women’s monthly menstrual cycle by inventing a machine that makes low-cost sanitary pads. In rural India, many ladies use rags, soil, and even mud for stemming menstrual flow which is highly infectious and unhygienic.

Arunachalam realized that many poor women, including his wife, were unable to afford sanitary napkins manufactured by MNCs. Hence, they were forced to use unhygienic rags and newspapers during their menstrual cycle.

After checking the product by himself, he realized that the raw materials probably cost 10 paise (in 1998), but these corporate giants were selling them for 40 times that price. He learnt that commercial pads used cellulose fibers, derived from pine bark wood pulp. The machines that made them were imported, costing more than 3 crores. Being from the hand loom sector, he thought he could make them cheaper himself.

After a long struggle, he managed to devise a low-cost machine (Rs.80,000 to Rs. 1 lakh), which would grind, de-fibrate, press, and sterilize the pads under ultraviolet light, which could also be operated with minimal training.

His unique contribution to the society was recognized only in 2006 when his work was accepted by IIT Madras.

And then, after obtaining funds, he founded Jayshree Industries that now manufactures and markets these machines to rural women all over India.

But Arunachalam had to face a lot of flak for working on this biological topic that even women are afraid to talk about. At one point, his wife and sisters left him, embarrassed by society’s taunts about his involvement in an issue dealing with women’s menstrual flow. When no one was ready to even give him feedback on his product, he began testing it on himself using a bladder with animal blood.

Today, this man who was ridiculed by the masses, has been included in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.