|Native name||அருணாசலம் முருகானந்தம்|
|Born||1962 (age 54–55)
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
|Occupation||Inventor and social entrepreneur|
|Home town||Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India|
Arunachalam Muruganantham (born 1962) 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 grass-roots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India. His mini-machines, which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, have been installed in 23 of the 29 states of India. He is currently planning to expand the production of these machines to 106 nations.
Muruganantham was born in 1962 to S. Arunachalam and A. Vanita, who were hand-loom weavers in Coimbatore, India. Muruganantham grew up in poverty after his father died in a road accident. His mother worked as a farm laborer to help in his studies. However, at the age of 14, he dropped out of school. He supplied food to factory workers and took up various jobs as machine tool operator, yam selling agent, farm laborer, welder, etc. to support his family.
In 1998, he got married to Shanthi. Shortly after, Murugananthan discovered his wife collecting filthy rags and newspapers to use during her menstrual cycle, as sanitary napkins made by multinational corporations were expensive. Troubled by this, he started designing experimental pads. Initially, he made pads out of cotton, but these were rejected by his wife and sisters. Eventually, they stopped co-operating with him and refused to be the test subjects for his innovations. He realized that the raw materials cost 10 paise ($0.002), but the end product sold for 40 times that price. He looked for female volunteers who could test his inventions, but most were too shy to discuss their menstrual issues with him. He started testing it on himself, using a bladder with animal blood, but became the subject of ridicule when the "sanitary pad" was discovered in his village. As menstruation is a taboo subject in India, it left him ostracized by his community and family. He distributed his products free to girls in a local medical college, provided they returned them to him after use.
It took him two years to discover that the commercial pads used cellulose fibers derived from pine bark wood pulp. The fibres helped the pads absorb while retaining shape. Imported machines that made the pads cost INR 35 million. So, he devised a low-cost machine that could be operated with minimal training. He sourced the processed pine wood pulp from a supplier in Mumbai and the machines would grind, de-fibrate, press and sterilize the pads under ultraviolet before packaging them for sale. The machine costs INR 65,000.
In 2006, he visited IIT Madras to show his idea and received suggestions. They registered his invention for the National Innovation Foundation's Grassroots Technological Innovations Award and his idea won the award. He obtained seed funding and founded Jayaashree Industries, which now markets these machines to rural women across India. The machine has been praised for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, and his commitment to social aid has earned him several awards. Despite offers from several corporate entities to commercialize his venture, he has refused to sell out and continues to provide these machines to self-help groups (SHGs) run by women.
Muruganantham's invention is widely praised as a key step in changing women's lives in India. Muruganantham's machine creates jobs and income for many women, and affordable pads enable many more women to earn their livelihood during menstruation. In addition to his own outreach, Muruganantham's work has also inspired many other entrepreneurs to enter this area, including some that propose to use waste banana fibre or bamboo for the purpose.
Muruganantham has become well known as a social entrepreneur. He has given lectures at many institutions including IIT Bombay, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and Harvard. He has also given a TED talk. His story was the subject of a prize-winning documentary by Amit Virmani, Menstrual Man. R. Balki has roped in Akshay Kumar for the film based on Arunachalam Muruganantham, titled as Padman.
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