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In times of widespread misogyny, blatant sexism and unequal opportunities for women everywhere, there are few inspiring stories of men who stand up for women rights emerging viral this #InternationalWomensDay. The story of Arunachalam Muruganantham is not a new one, but it deserves to be remembered again for its empowering, positive approach, brilliant marketing and necessity being the father of all inventions. This entrepreneur had lost everything in the process of following his dream – to make affordable sanitary pads available to women in India and other developing countries, including his wife for half a decade, friends’ and family’s support and became the story of ridicule from his neighbors.
The story begins when he noticed his wife hiding a black polyethene bag occasionally of some trash whose contents she refused to reveal to her husband. Eventually, Arunachalam found out it contained some used rags soaked in blood – what his wife had been using instead of sanitary pads because all brands cost phenomenally more. He got his mission in 1998 and figured the process would be simple, designing the first set in 48 hours – swirling cotton wool around cotton cloth. He told his wife to test it out and she said it was useless and she hated it.
Inspiration behind the idea
After understanding how lack of access to sanitary pads is a problem that affects millions of women in India, he decided to take matters into his own hands. The cost of production had to be marginal but since MNCs were the only ones producing them, marketing and export-import costs inflated the price beyond affordability to him.
Problems with testing
However the concept of menstruation is still a major taboo in India. Women are not willing to discuss about their periods leave alone share feedback or problems with sanitary pads to men. Having been forced to wait a month for his wife’s cycle to test newer prototype, he sought the feedback of a group of female medical studying pursuing their degree in biology – but they were all too shy to offer their feedback.
Improvising to test the product fully
Finally he decided the best analyses would be if he tested the product on himself. Using a plastic bottle for a makeshift uterus and a drip pip, he filled the bottle with animal blood and wore it for days on end. He would perform daily tasks such as walking, squatting, cycling, travelling and chores while wearing his device, occasionally pressing the switch to release a bit of the blood out the device. This way he got to test the device first hand – even though this attracted the attention of people from his city that called him a freak/pervert.
From rags to riches - literally
Two years later, his final design is claimed to be equally if not better than international brands of sanitary pads. However, the price is less than 50% of most brands. He has since sold 1,300 machines to 27 states and has recently begun exporting them to developing countries all over the world.
On the behalf of the Entrepreneur India team, we salute the efforts of this entrepreneur and his will to help women across the nation, and possibly the world. For more inspiring stories of womanhood, refer to our Wmen's Day exclusive page by clicking here.