The Real Pad Man : Arunachalam Muruganantham
When menstruation was cloaked in superstitious belief, meant to be pushed under the carpet as if it didn't exist or exiled to a dark corner of the house, one man made it his focus.
He provided rural women with a simple yet effective sort of hygiene solution that they had long wanted but lacked.
Yes, we're talking about Arunachalam Muruganantham, India's true Padman, who in 2004 offered the world its very own low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing equipment.
Arunachalam Muruganantham with low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing Machine. (Image source: BBC)
He is a high school dropout with no formal education, yet he got the National Innovation Foundation's Grassroots Technological Innovations Award at IIT Madras in 2006 and the Padma Shri in 2016.
Arunachalam Muruganantham is a name that stands high as a social entrepreneur despite having no degree from any of the country's famous institutes.
It was when menstruation, as a biological phenomenon, was never talked about, that he decided to experiment with it in order to help his newly married wife.
The road to prosperity and becoming a household name in India was not simple for India's menstrual guy.
Arunachalam Muruganantham is well-known for its low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing system and for raising awareness about unsanitary menstrual traditions.
Though he had already achieved popularity, the Akshay Kumar blockbuster 'Padman' has provided him with the proper respect for what he has done to combat one of society's most serious defects.
He married Shanthi in 1998. Muruganantham soon caught his wife gathering filthy rags and newspapers to use as sanitary napkins throughout her menstrual cycle because sanitary napkins made by multinational firms were prohibitively expensive.
As a result of this, he began creating experimental pads. He started making cotton pads, but his wife and sisters didn't like them. They eventually stopped cooperating with him and refused to be test subjects for his experiments.
Muruganantham didn't give up hope and offered his next batch of sanitary napkins to medical student females, assuming they were future doctors who wouldn't be afraid to speak up.
But he failed once more since no one listened to his appeal and those who helped were not confident to share their reviews.
Muruganantham discovered that his sanitary pads do not work after many attempts.
He did more research and discovered that a decent sanitary napkin requires cellulose fibres, not cotton, which are made from pine bark wood pulp and help keep the pad's shape and prevent it from leaking when wet.
He didn't have enough money to start a plant, so he performed some more research and invented low-cost tools and technology to assist him make a good sanitary napkin.
Muruganantham says he toiled and researched for 18 months to create 250 machines capable of producing successful low-cost sanitary napkins.
He went to IIT Madras in 2006 to present his idea and gather feedback. They submitted his innovation for the Grassroots Technological Innovations Award from the National Innovation Foundation, and it won.
He got some seed money and started Jayashree Industries, which currently sells similar devices to women in rural India.
He took his invention to India's poorest states after it was completed in order to assist all women, including his wife and sisters.
When it comes to low-cost machinery, Muruganantham says,
“Each machine employs about ten women, who can make 200 to 250 pads each day while working together. Then it's sold for an average of Rs. 2.50 per piece.”
His commitment to social service has garnered him multiple awards, and the machine has been acclaimed for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.
Despite offers from various corporations to commercialize his innovation, he has declined and continues to supply these machines to women-led self-help groups (SHGs).
His long-term goal is to make India a sanitary-napkin-using country with 100 percent job possibilities.