Friday, October 5, 2012

Indian Entrepreneur

Other than being forced to watch ridiculous ads on TV we rarely talk about menstruation: the event that every woman of child-bearing age endures every month as part of her reproductive cycle. Yes, it's often inconvenient and messy. We accept it all, not necessarily without complaint, but we carry on, rarely thinking about other women around the world or wondering how they handle it.

The story of this Indian entrepreneur was in the Globe and Mail the other day, in an article by Stephanie Nolen, the Globe's Correspondent in India.

In many developing countries women are unable to afford, or they live in places where such conveniences are unavailable, sanitary supplies for their monthly cycle. Instead of the convenient sanitary supplies - napkins, tampons etc. - that women in developed countries such as Canada take for granted, women in India use old newspapers, rags, torn-up saris, or perhaps moss. Such products are not only uncomfortable, but unsanitary as well. The inconvenience is so terrible that often girls cannot attend school or women must stay home from work for part of the month.

Arunachalam Muruganantham, a son, husband and brother to menstruating women finally noticed that they were having a problem and he wanted to help. In India, a man's interest in these certain affairs of women is viewed with extreme distaste and suspicion. Muruganantham persevered, trying different materials to make, at home, different types of sanitary napkins and then finding women to try them out and to give him feedback. There were many failures. His wife was so embarrassed and distraught that he was talking to other women, especially about such personal issues, that she left home and asked for a divorce. Then his mother also left home in disgust. He kept on.

Eventually he had some success in creating a product that was both useful and affordable. He talked some women into helping him distribute them by moped and happily, the important women in his life eventually returned.

Now his story is in the Globe and Mail. Read it and see more pictures here and here.