The Indian sanitary pad revolutionary, Dr.Arunachalam Muruganatham, who is known to the world as the Pad Man plans to launch 100% biodegradable sanitary pads very soon. Revealing this while addressing the virtual gathering of TiE Sustainability Global Summit he revealed that the trial was on and he could meet up with 98% success and need some time before the final product hits the market.
TiE Sustainability Summit is the world’s largest summit on sustainability space and is being attended by over 40,000 social enterprises, startups and entrepreneurs from 54 countries. It is hosted by TiE Hyderabad.
Replying to Mr Bhanu Prakash, the moderator if had any plans on coming with bio-degradable pads, as the nearly 12 billion(1200 crore) sanitary pads are discarded each year and they take 500 to 800 years to degrade, he said, I am aware of the problem. According to Menstrual Health Alliance India, one sanitary pad could take 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is non-biodegradable and can lead to health and environmental hazards.
It is the philosophy ingrained in my system that anything we produce has to be with natural material and it must be naturally friendly. And we are happy that we are about to hit the market with the most environmentally friendly, low-cost sanitary napkins.
There are almost 60 unicorns( a term used to describe a startup with a value of over $1 billion) in the social entrepreneur space. Do you have any plans to become one, asked moderator Bhanu Prakash? “I don’t want to become a Unicorn. All I know is sweet corn(a variety of maize). I asked my daughter what Unicorn is. She told me it is another sweet corn. What is the use of becoming a unicorn without creating any social impact? I never dreamt of any such things. I saw many create wealth, become a unicorn and then they become philanthropists. Instead, I want to travel such a journey, each step of my journey leaving a long-lasting footprint that guards Mother Nature. I am not in a hurry. We don’t retail our products. We detail our product. Business is not about winning. It is a journey. I always dream of how I can create a social impact. When I do it that will be my ‘corn’, whether it is the unicorn or whatever the nomenclature you give he said.
There are SUVs( Sports Utility Vehicle, a car classification) and Locomotives(a powered railway vehicle used for pulling trains). I want to be a locomotive that carries the huge load with SUVs speed so that I reach out to more rural people, he said.
Being small you can do big things, he said. Big companies can do big things. My story is just that being small and having a great social impact. And Being small you can be a driver of change and you can make a big positive impact on society….. and this is called “Social Enterprise”, he said. I have a social problem with a successful livelihood. 90% of women in India are not using sanitary pads. I have done this through trial and error. In due course, I have lost my respect. I was considered a mad man. My wife threw divorce papers on my face. But, I always kept the end in mind. And now I have got all that I have lost. I am a happy man. I can’t call it a success. It is a journey, he said.
What do you need to be a driver of change? He asked and said, you don’t need anything. You need just a PROBLEM. My dream was to be a solution to a problem. And needed innovation to be a driver of change. I have set up 5300 low-cost sanitary pad making machines all over India and 27 other countries. My story matched for all—-Frugal designing, successful disruptive designing; successful rural marketing; successful social entrepreneur; a model for “Blue Ocean Strategy”; an innovative out of the box management practice and frugal way of overcoming competition. I have created a measurable social impact. Out of it 1,10,000 plus rural women got direct employment or livelihood created. Because of our efforts, more than 45 million women shifted from unhygienic methods to hygiene sanitary pads using the method. The change we wanted to make was to create a million rural employment opportunities for poor women. Making India a 100% sanitary napkin using country from the current level of less than 10% is our dream. Our design is very well matched for over 106 developing nations so the change what we can do in India, we can also do the all over the world, he concluded his talk.