Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.
There is something about this guy that makes you believe you can do it. Yes you can change your mere existence into something worth living for. So,What if you find your meaning in the most strangest of all things? So what if the way you choose for yourself is not compatible with the likes of your near-dear ones? So what if people make a mockery out of you and assign you different names and question your integrity and every passerby issues you a ‘bad’ character certificate? So what if all you encounter in your path towards excellence are Whats, Whys and Donts?
Well all you do is make a world class product, get it patented, help almost 260 villages with it and refuse to bow down before the MNCs willing to buy the product.
The Man :
"I am trying to create a second white revolution," says Muruganantham. Setting up 100,000 units, he says, will generate employment for one million women.
Before you get any more confused let me tell you about this man- Arunachalam Muruganantham, and his invention – the modern sanitary napkins at affordable, inexpensive rates, for the women living in the rural areas.
There is something about this man. He wears a formal half-shirt with decent checks, a trouser and an everlasting smile that goes pretty well with his persona. He speaks his mind out without hesitating about the language of conversation. He speaks at times in jumbled, broken up sentences but his ideas and lessons are firm and undaunted. So he recites us his 14 min. story of success. A 14-minute worth seeing, learning, and being impressed with his success story. His notion of having a meaningful life rather than a normal life, comes at the very first slide he presents, followed by a blank white slide wherein he tells us his story. For a man who was presented with endless obstacles of poverty, unemployment and family disagreement, Muruganantham surely emerged out as a winner. A self made man, who honestly followed his dreams, who devoted himself to the solution of his problem, who gave in all of his effort in the pursuit of excellence and in its realization, who fought for the sake of his zeal and never say die attitude and the awesome creative capabilities of his brain.
As he switches over to the other slides and makes people laugh at certain instances of his own life he gives out a bold, straight-cut message- “Enjoy your existence and do things not only for the sake of its usefulness or money but also to convince the real You inside You”. Born and brought up in extreme poor conditions Muruganantham had to start earning at a tender age of 14 to cater to the family’s needs. At 14 he initiated a successful tiffin system for the factory workers but soon had to drop the business due to threats issued by a local competitor. At 15 he then started making doors and windows with new different patterns. His entrepreneurial attitude helped him in every venture he undertook. Towards the end of his presentation as the crowd stands up on their feet and bathes him with their applauses, he says : “This moment is what I precisely worked for. This is why I do things.”
The Problem :
It was during his early days of marriage, when he noticed that his wife Shanti used filthy rags to clean herself during her menstrual cycle. On being asked why she didn’t use the modern day sanitary napkins, she answered that it was a choice either to buy her a sanitary pad or buy milk for the entire family. Muruganantham soon noticed that it was not only her problem but around more than 90% of women in India had the same problem. The sanitary pads available in the market were too expensive to be afforded by these low and middle class families. The alternatives that they used were ashes, old newspapers, and even husk sand. He started searching a solution for this problem which caused the women to be plagued with various reproductive tracts infection, in some cases even increasing the risk of being infected with Cancer.
The Solution :
"It wasn't easy," says Muruganantham. "They thought I would use it for black magic."
Faced with the challenge of making a low-cost, affordable sanitary pad for his wife, he started out by purchasing good quality cotton and making homemade pads. The only female volunteer at the beginning he received was his own wife: Shanti. Unaware of the menstrual cycles, he presented the pads to his wife and demanded an immediate answer. Soon enough he was educated about the female menstrual system, but was unsatisfied with the results he received from his wife. He then asked her sisters to co-operate, but they found it hard to communicate with him and shut their doors when they used to see him coming. Convinced that Muruganantham was using this as an execuse to get close to the other females, his wife left him temporarily.
But all this could not deter him in his path. He next asked few medical girl students to co-operate with the findings, but even they refused after initial tests. Left with no female volunteer, the man decided to test for himself the pad. He bought a female undergarment and together with an artificial bladder-and-tube contraption wore it for an entire week. The homemade uterus made out of a football bladder released goat’s blood (which he treated with a chemical to prevent coagulation) at specific periods. Unsatisfactory results still prompted him to ask other women for help in the research. He now distributed free pads to women and asked them to return the used ones. Even this was not easy to do as women thought he may do black magic with these. It was now her mothers turn to leave the house when she found him in a room filled with used sanitary pads.
Members of his family called him by names and said that the devil had possessed his soul. Finally after two tough years of research he found out that the pads were made of materials containing pine and coconut scrubs. He asked some foreign companies to send him samples of their materials by contacting them with fake IDs of a businessman pretending to invest in the business. After the samples arrived he took 10 days to figure out the costs to make them at a grand scale which came close to 300,000 Pounds. Unable to bring such a huge initial cost, the inventor in Muruganantham again came up with a mind blowing idea of making a self made machine at a much cheaper rate. Two years later his machine won the award for the best innovation at IIT Chennai. He got the patent rights for his new re-engineered machine soon after. It took him more 4 years of trial and error to finally put it to use in one of his factories. The result was the formation of Jayshree industries which now works in more than 23 states, having around 600 machines. These machines are independently bought by women Self help groups(SHGs), State governments, NGOs and even industrial enterprises. The centres established mostly in rural areas, employ only the local women and help them earn a decent 2500-3500 Rupees per month.
Currently the pads are sold as low as Rs 13 per 8-9 pads thereby assuring the safe, affordable sanitation of many Indian women. The machine costs around 1500 Pounds and makes around 1000 pads everyday. The village women are trained to use these machines in close to 3 hours. The whole thing works on a woman-to-woman basis. Right from manufacturing to sales, women are given the right and freedom to carry this campaign. “I want to start a second White Revolution”, he says proudly with a twinkle in his eyes. The magic in his eyes and his attracting persona, makes you feel impossible to digest the fact that this is the same man who had been subjected to public ridicule. He makes fun of himself and fondly recites all his antics. The point of not working for money but something more sane, moral and true attracts the viewers. The fountain of confidence and self-belief that he showers is not only amazing but also fills one with awe and respect for this modest man who now ranks among the country’s leading inventor turned entrepreneurs and shrugs shoulders with giants like P&G, Johnson & Johnson and is a visitor and guest lecturer at all the IIMs of the country. Such firm are his ideas, such strong are his morals and such is his stature. The man from rural parts of Coimbatore, Tamil-Nadu, has come a long way indeed.
Motivation & Connection
“A small chit of a paper was made, the ones you would see kids making while playing chor-sipahi, the only difference being that this chit wasn’t made for that purpose. Probably it had something else written inside it a one word thing which spoke of something being free. The young kid couldn’t decipher this code handed over to him by his mother. The only directions that were given to him was- “Go straight to the shuklajee ka ration shop and hand him this slip, the rest was for him to conclude.” What bothered the kid more was the way in which this thing was carried on, why couldn’t he just say this stuff to shuklajee, why did it require a written chit? Why? And the things which occurred at the ration shop was even more disturbing. Shuklajee after reading the slip, looked left-right, catered to all the other customers and then finally took out that blue bar sort of thing from the uppermost shelf, covered it with newspapers and then put that thing in a black plastic bag. The kid finally after handing over that stuff to his mother was now free to run and attend to his every day games.”
As I saw the video, the 10 yr. old in me suddenly unsurfaced and the thoughts hidden in my subconscious suddenly found a way out. The kid in me gradually grew up and came to know about all the hidden things which are considered to be a taboo even in the developed parts of our country. People hesitate to look at Sanitary Pads’ advertisements even, leave aside the topic of openly discussing such stuff. But then the step had to be taken. Not just this but topics related to LGBTs, female empowerment and the modern world issues need to be addressed openly. We as a society, as a country, as men need to speak up openly without fear of being judged, criticized or shunned. Speak up for people who cant say for themselves. We need to partner and prosper.
As a part of this continuous process, wherein we believe that present ideas of today are the only true investments, Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDx Gateway Mumbai.
“Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... Give me truth.”