Lifestyle & Belief

Nail in the coffin for India's tampon king

Awhile back I wrote about an eccentric rural inventor who has invented a machine to stamp out sanitary napkins at a fraction of the price charged by companies like Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble (to add a little masala the editors erroneously christened him 'the Tampon King').  Well, here's an update: It turns out that riding around with a football bladder full of blood and collecting used sanitary napkins from nursing students wasn't enough.  The Indian government has apparently dismissed the low-cost sanitary napkin machine and self-help business model developed by Coimbatore's A. Muruganantham out of hand -- the same way people in his town once called him a "psycho" and a "pervert" when he was struggling to conduct his research.

Check out Muru doing his Tony Robbins-meets-Steve Jobs imitation, courtesy Youtube.

The little guy rarely wins, of course, but I was rooting for Muruganantham, so I was disappointed to learn from the Hindu this morning that the central government's "ambitious and much-awaited scheme of making available subsidised sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 years in rural India will be operational by August."  Of course it's a great idea to make sure that young women have access to these products, which help prevent reproductive tract infections caused by using old rags, straw and other traditional materials.  But Muru's dream was so much more inspiring.

Here's a bit of what he told me a year ago:

“What I am telling is that if the government permits me we are able without subsidy to provide the napkins,” Murugantham said. “Already, we can make napkins for 1 rupee, 50 paise. If the government comes, we can reduce that by 50 percent.”

And if the government guarantees orders from rural women, the scheme won't cost the state a penny, Murugantham believes. With orders in hand, the women will be able to get small-business loans from local banks, enabling local entrepreneurs to set up 100,000 manufacturing units across India.