The inability of women living in poverty to purchase feminine hygiene products while menstruating is a major challenge for poor communities. Not only does it provide a source of humiliation for many women, but it drastically cuts down on their productiveness. Inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham of India has invented a machine the produces low cost sanitary napkins to women and provides a business opportunity.
“Inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham at Jayaashree Industries, a Coimbatorebased company, has found a solution with his mini sanitary napkin-making machine. He was inspired to design and invent the mini machine after learning from his wife that if she, along with all his other female family members, bought sanitary napkins, they would have to reduce the monthly milk budget significantly. The low-cost mini machine’s design is based on small-scale production. Large-scale production of sanitary napkins requires as much as US$782,000 as an initial investment. However, Jayaashree’s mini machine can be purchased for about US$1,680. It is estimated that the mini machine can make 120 sanitary napkins per hour.
“The affordability of the mini machine presents a unique opportunity to expand availability of this necessity while also increasing local employment opportunities. Entrepreneurs, or even local female-led self-help groups, can acquire the machine and set up a business to sell in underserved markets, thus creating more employment locally. Such groups can also address the social issues that constrain the uptake of sanitary napkins. Jayaashree notes on its website that a sanitary napkin manufacturing business can employ up to 10 women.
“’With our low-cost technology innovation, women will not only be able to get access to affordable, hygienic, eco-friendly sanitary pads,’ declares Muruganantham on the Ashoka Changemakers website. ‘But most importantly, [women] participate in the entire lifecycle of the technology development process not just as users, but also as technology designers, manufacturers, marketers!’”
It is important to also note that “government subsidization of MNC [multinational corporations] offerings may have short-term benefits, but over the long run, it can hurt the income-generating prospects for many lower-income people.”
Implications from Intellecap:
“As the feminine hygiene market expands, it cannot be assumed that MNCs will be the primary purveyors of sanitary napkins to the BoP consumer. The general consumer culture of India favors smaller kirana stores more than large Walmart-style stores. What Jayaashree Industries has done is make manufacturing and usage of sanitary napkins more accessible, and this in itself is a huge feat. Since India has become a hub for social entrepreneurship and innovation, it is fair to assume that Jayaashree will not be the only player in the market. And if government programs can be interpreted as signals, the Government of India is also catching on to the depth of women’s issues, as well as the relatively simple solutions that can be invested in to help women help themselves and thereby improve the quality of life for girls and women in the generations to come
Intellecap June 2011 pgs. 6-8