A thought provoking story from NPR (H/T: Aja):
Arunachalam Muruganantham had his light bulb moment when he was 29 years old, and holding a sanitary napkin for the first time.
Examining the cotton pads he was buying as a gift for his new wife, the Indian entrepreneur realized that the multinational company that produced them was probably spending cents on raw materials, and making a huge profit.
Women in Muruganantham’s village in Tamil Nadu, including his wife, would often forego these expensive pads for rags they used repeatedly through their cycles. Even more uncomfortably, sometimes they utilized husks or leaves during menstruation.
The exorbitant cost of the foreign-made pads cut into their families’ meal budget. Given a choice between fresh pads and fresh milk, they chose the latter.
A new movie, Menstrual Man, documents how, at great personal cost, Muruganantham created a cheap machine to address persistent menstrual hygiene challenges for rural women on the subcontinent. But, as director Amit Virmani points out, the product’s traction may have more to do with social entrepreneurship than with health concerns.
Women whose self-help groups buy Muruganantham’s machine can make more than a dollar a day — close to a global poverty line — selling the pads.
Sanitary napkins from global companies are in Indian stores for about $1.50 for an eight-pack. The ones from Murugantham’s machine wholesale at about 25 cents for an eight-pack; the women’s groups can sell them at whatever retail price they choose, retaining the profit. The cost of the machines ranges from about $1,200 to $6,000, depending on the features.
“The primary impulse when people are struggling to make a living is either, ‘How can I make more money?,’ or ‘How can I save more money?’,” Virmani said. “If you address those needs, your innovation stands a better chance to be adopted, to spread.”
Read the rest here and check out the video trailer here: