Arunachalam Muruganantham is one of India’s most famous entrepreneurs. In 2014, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. But not so long ago, he was a struggling inventor, shunned by his wife and mocked by his neighbors over his devotion to solving a problem that affects millions of women and girls in India. In the long run, his devotion paid off.
More than 300 million women in India are unable to afford safe menstrual hygiene products. Muruga’s wife was one of them. In 1998, when the couple was recently married, Muruga noticed that his wife was using old rags to deal with her monthly cycle. So, as Al Jazeera reports, he embarked on a year-long mission to manufacture a better, cheaper sanitary pad.
Muruga began by cutting cotton wool into strips and wrapping those strips in another thin layer of cotton. His wife, acting as his one and only test subject, told him that the pad was useless. Muruga realized that he needed more women to try out his product, but few women were willing to participate. So Muruga built a rubber bladder, filled it with animal blood, and attached it to his hip. He could make the bladder release the blood by applying pressure — thereby allowing him to test the pads himself.
Not sure what to make of his blood-filled bladder, Muruga’s neighbors labeled him as a pervert. His wife left him and filed for divorce. “That’s the first accolade I got for my research,” Muruga says wryly in a video interview with al Jazeera.
But he persisted. It took two years for Muruga to come up with the perfect formula, but he was able to devise a low-cost machine for producing sanitary pads. Twenty-seven states in India have purchased 1,300 of his machines, which are used by women’s groups and schools to produce their own menstrual pads.
“He has started a revolution in his own country,” Al Jazeera writes, “and has recently begun exporting them to developing countries all over the world.”
Watch the full video profile of Muruga and his innovation below.
Read the full story at Al Jazeera.