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How a school dropout empowers women
 

How a school dropout empowers women

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    How a school dropout empowers women How a school dropout empowers women Document Transcript

    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comHow a school dropout empowers rural women- by ShobhaWarrier in Coimbtore, rediff.com His innovation to churn out low-cost sanitary napkins is a double boon to poor women of rural India: they can lead a hygienic lifestyle and it helps them earn a living too! Forty-seven-year-old A Muruganantham does not like to call himself a businessman. The company he has started, Jayashree Industries, supplies machines and raw material for making sanitary napkins. The difference is that his machines go only to poor women in the rural areas.There are already 250 machines installed in 18 states in India.Last year, President Pratibha Patil presented the National Innovation Foundations FifthNational Grassroots Technological Innovations and Traditional Knowledge Award tohim in New Delhi.His machine was chosen by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be deployed inAfrica. Though a school dropout, the success of his innovation has enabled him to go toIIM-Ahmedabad as a visiting professor and talk about his work. He was one of thespeakers at the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) conference too.He spoke to rediff.com on his innovation and future plans.Tough childhood daysMy father was a handloom weaver and my mother, a farm labourer. There was noquestion of me dreaming about being an entrepreneur.But my mind was always active with ideas and I wanted to be an inventor.When my father died in an accident, the financial condition of my family worsened. Mymothers meagre earnings -- Rs 7 daily -- was all we had for food and schooling.Pursuing excellence in rotational moulding.
    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comI was forced to drop out of school when I was in the 10th standard. I stared working inworkshops as a helper. I preferred workshops because I was always fascinated bymachines. I earned Rs 2 a week!Life went on like that, and I didnt even know how I grew up.How sanitary napkins became an obsession in his lifeOne day I saw my wife walk past me hiding something. I enquired what was it. . . but sheevaded me, saying it was none of my business.When I insisted I found she was carrying a piece of cloth that was dirtier than the rag Iused in the workshop. I was horrified to learn that she would use it for personal hygieneduring her menstrual cycle. Here was a woman who had studied up to Plus 2 (Class 12)and was behaving like an illiterate woman! She told me she was aware of sanitary napkins, but if all the adult women in the house used them then they would have no money to buy food. I had no idea that they were so expensive. As a matter of fact I had absolutely no idea about the whole issue -- what they looked like, why women need them -- nothing. I went to a store and bought a packet. I found 10gm cotton in each napkin. It should not have cost more than 10 paise, but was actuallyselling for Rs 3.I wondered why I could not make it affordable for poor women, like my wife and sisters.I bought a good piece of cotton cloth and cotton, made a very simple napkin and askedmy wife to be a volunteer. Unfortunately, all three -- my wife and my two sisters --refused.I tried an experiment by filling a football bladder with animal blood that I collected froma butchers shop. It proved completely useless.I then went to the Medical College which was around 28 kms away from my village, andrequested some students to be my volunteers, and they agreed. But their feedback wasnegative. They were not satisfied with my product.Pursuing excellence in rotational moulding.
    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comI was so obsessed, the women folk of my house thought I had gone mad and become apervert, and they left the house calling me, mental and psycho!Those were the first accolades I got! But I was unperturbed. I was only obsessed with thethought about why my napkins didnt work.Mystery solved; its not cotton! In the meantime, I had sent the branded napkins to various labs to test what was inside, and the verdict was: cellulose. I was told that the cellulose used in the napkins would be available in the United States. I took the help of a college professor to draft a letter to the manufacturer to see the sample material. As you know, I, a school dropout, didnt know enough English and couldnt draft a formal letter. What came to me from the US was a smallparcel with ten cardboard sheets. I was puzzled.Only after ten days, when I tore open one sheet that I realised that fibre from pine woodwas what was inside, and that was what was used in sanitary napkins.I also found out that you needed a machine to make cellulose out of wood fibre. Cottonabsorbs fluid but does not retain it while cellulose, both, absorbs and retains it.Once I learnt the mystery behind the napkins, I searched for the machine. To my horror, Ifound it cost Rs 4.5 crore (Rs 45 million).Machine to produce sanitary napkins designedThat was when I decided to design one. It took me around two years to design a machinethat could process cellulose and make sanitary napkins. It was by trial-and-error that Ireached the final product in 2005.But I never looked at what I did as a business model because I knew I would never beable to compete with the multi-national giants.Pursuing excellence in rotational moulding.
    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comI gave the material and machine to the women in my house so that they could havecheaper napkins to use. There was enough raw material for five years. But after two months, when they asked me for more raw material, I was shocked. They told me they sold the napkins to the women in the neighbourhood, that too not as packets but as single ones. 97% of rural women do not use sanitary napkins Let me quote you some statistics. As per a government study, only 7 per cent of Indias female population uses napkins and that includes urban women too.In rural areas, only 3 per cent use. That means 97 per cent of rural women do not usenapkins. Why do they not use it? Because of two reasons: availability and affordability.Then I hit upon an idea.Why not give the machine to rural women so that they could make cheaper napkins? Theresult would be both easier availability and affordability.Award from IIT- Madras In 2006, when I approached the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras to evaluate my machine, I was told to send in all the details. I did not know that they had included my innovation in the competition that was held at that time on Best Innovation for the betterment of society. My machine was chosen as the best innovation from 689 entries.Pursuing excellence in rotational moulding.
    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comThe news appeared in all the newspapers and local TV. Soon I started getting orders forthe machine but I had no plan to sell it for commercial purposes. I know what suffering isand I wanted in some way or the other to be useful to the society.Machines only to poor rural womenI decided to supply my machine only through DRDO or a self-help group to the poorwomen in rural areas. I have sold 250 machines till now, and they are spread all overIndia, in the rural areas of 18 states.All the machines are operated only by the poorest women in the villages. My job does notend with supplying the machine; I myself go and train them to operate the machine.I dont supply it to any government as no government is interested in the betterment ofpeople. In the next one-and-a-half years, I want to supply 20,000 machines. I started selling them at Rs 47,000 but now, the price has gone up to Rs 80,000, and that included 12.5 per cent tax. To set up a machine with raw material, it would cost Rs 150,000. In most places, the SHGs arrange for bank loans. Unlike the MNCs who make napkins in one place and transport to various areas, thesewomen make napkins and sell in that area alone. From each machine, you can make1,000 pieces a day and a minimum of 25,000 pieces a month.The Union government is now talking about supplying free napkins to women byspending Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion).With the same amount, we can create 100,000 units across India and each unit can have10 women working in it. This way, we create employment for a million women.Think of those poor women in Bihar, the beedi workers of Sivakasi and many suchplaces. I am interested only in employment generation and women moving fromunhygienic rags to using napkins. We also teach the women hygiene and ways to disposeof the napkins.Recognition from MIT, IIM-APursuing excellence in rotational moulding.
    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comThe Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US bought my machine for Africancountries. The condition of African women is no different from ours. I am happy that the worlds premier institute found my innovation worth recommending. I am also getting enquiries from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. This will be useful to women residing in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka too. Being a non-business person, I am going to transfer the technology which I have patented to the African countries as I have no plans to sell my machines there. I was invited to speak at the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) meet in Mumbai in 2009. I asked the elite crowd, "When a school dropout from a small place in Coimbatore can think of making his innovation useful tosociety, why dont you educated people think on these lines?"The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, and other business schools andengineering colleges, invited me as a guest professor.I ask them, "Are you trying to survive in this world by accepting a job that offers youcrores of rupees or are you trying to achieve something?" I am proud to say that quite a few were disturbed by my question. I believe that the quality of your work is more important than money. Money has to be a by-product, not the aim. Award from the President of India Last year, President Pratibha Patil presented the National Innovation Foundations Fifth National GrassrootsTechnological Innovations and Traditional Knowledge Awards to me.Pursuing excellence in rotational moulding.
    • Vinodrai Engineers Pvt. Ltd., 12 Km. Stone, Jalna-Aurangabad Road, Village Dawalwadi, District : Jalna Jalna – 431 203 ( India ) Ph: +91-2482-262000 Fax: +91-2482-262400 Web: vinodrai.com , E-Mail : vinodraieng@rediffmail.comI must say I never aimed for any award; they are just by-products. Awards help me takemy product to the targetted audience.I am not a businessman. I also dont like to say that I am a social entrepreneur thoughmany use that word to describe me. I am not serving society; I do what I like and what Ienjoy doing. I only want to be a job provider.The biggest award I got was from a woman from Uttaranchal who told me, "Bhaiyya, Iadmitted my daughter in a school!"A woman from such a far-off place called me bhaiyya, her brother. She could put herdaughter in school only because of the money she made by selling napkins. Her wordswere the biggest award I have ever won!Pursuing excellence in rotational moulding.