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The multi-billion dollar sanitary pad industry pales before its, perhaps, only ‘country cousin’ – a successful business model that was born out of Arunachalam Muruganantham’s earnestness to make menstrual hygiene accessible to every woman in the country.“My mission is to generate 1 million jobs and make India a 100 per cent sanitary napkin-use country, where now less than 12 per cent of women use pads,” Muruganantham told The man behind the movie is Muruganantham.
Wearing titles such as ‘menstruation Muruganantham’ on his sleeves, the inventor was nudged into making affordable pads to help his new wife, but was ostracised for adopting ‘weird’ methods to test the functionality of his creation.
His daughter Preethishree is in Class IV, and wants to be an inventor herself.
“A Hindi movie would have a pan-India reach and I didn’t want to restrict this idea to a region.”Playing Muruganandam warranted several visits by Akshay Kumar to his home in Coimbatore.
“Akshay enjoyed meals of -rice-pappad my wife Shanthi cooked,” he said, and over which the actor got under the skin of his character and soaked in the environment that gave birth to the revolutionary business idea.
A discreet supply chain sees the pads through to consumers.
The pad costing Rs 2 and made of high-quality pine wood pulp is distributed through a grassroots method of door-to-door sales and retailing by word of mouth.“We have set up 4,800 pad-making machines for individuals and groups in different parts of India with the help of about 1,000 volunteers, who joined the network by word of mouth.”The machine, which can produce 1,500 pads a day, is simple to run and the raw material, available in paper stores, easy to source – in total, a business operation that is within the grasp and resources of India’s semi-skilled and unskilled millions. Muruganantham set about constructing the pad in 1994 and when it took shape in 2004, he needed volunteers to test it.