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Grassroots Innovation: Mini Sanitary Napkin Machine for Rural India

A nationwide survey gauging menstrual hygiene by Plan India revealed that 68% of rural Indian women are not able to afford sanitary napkins.

Sanitary napkin, an essential personal hygiene product, has very low penetration in India due to it’s high price. The survey showed that 81% of rural women use unsterilized cloth since it is relatively cheaper than sanitary napkins.

The Innovator and the Innovation

Muruganatham (47) has developed an assembly of low cost, portable machines that produce quality sanitary napkins at a cost of Rs. 1 to Rs. 1.50 per pad approximately.

Tenth standard passed and with no further formal education, Muruganatham always had an attitude of a scientist – observing, experimenting and giving birth to new ideas. When he became aware that most rural women couldn’t afford sanitary napkin thus putting them in grave danger of various infectious diseases, he decided to do something about it.


The Process of Innovating

Initially he worked with cloth but that didn’t give the desired results. He got a commercially available napkin and found out that they used wood fiber for draining the fluids and retaining shape of the pad. He sourced the requisite raw material and developed the final assembly of machines in 2004. He got encouraging feedback on it’s efficancy and subsequently improved the machine by adding UV sterilization unit, calibration and increasing the production rate to 1000 pads per day.


The Social Impact

This machine heralds a new revolution in low cost personal hygiene  for women across all sections of society. Muruganatham has developed a social entrepreneurship model where-in SHG groups can buy the machine and market or sell the product according to their requirements. Many self help groups (SHGs), corporates and organizations like M S Swaminathan Research Research Foundation, All India Woman’s Conference etc. have placed orders for the machine.


These napkin making machines in India are already in place in more than 200 location across the country empowering local women and banishing the stigma away from menstruation and feminine hygiene.

The National Innovation Foundation (NIF), India, was established on Feb 28th 2000 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The main goal of NIF is to provide institutional support in scouting, spawning, sustaining and scaling up grassroots green innovations and help their transition to self supporting activities.
NIF has been supporting and incubating a number of interesting innovations over the past many years. We have been showcasing these innovations here as part of an ongoing series called ‘Grassroots Innovation’.

You can view all the Grassroots Innovations articles here.
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