The PAD-MAN SPIRIT
Certain things that we do for others may not go down well with them. Though we do it in good faith, the intended beneficiary might misunderstand it. It needs sheer will and perseverance to take the effort to a logical conclusion. A case in point is that of a man who has become a sort of legendary figure in our own times. He is none other than Mr.Arunachalam Muruganantham, popularly known as ‘padman’.
I had an opportunity to meet with him sometime ago. The man could be described as the personification of ‘never say die’ spirit. He was speaking in English with some ease. It would have been difficult for a person with a rural upbringing, but he had managed to do so with his untiring efforts. In fact, he had been going to various places including foreign countries to give discourses on his hard-earned story of success.
At a time when people in rural households were talking hush-hush about the monthly ‘periods’, he was thinking of a way to reduce women’s drudgery. He wanted to experiment with low-cost sanitary pads.The project needed modern infrastructure, support from altruists and lots of funds. It was something that could be executed by multinational companies.
But none can stop a person who is determined. He went through the pain of finding young women who could collaborate with him to try his product. In the process, he earned a bad name among the villagers – for the simple reason that he was closely associated with several women, though he had mingled with them purely for his research project.
The project had been conceived and conceptualised primarily to help his wife, but she was the first person to get estranged. That did not deter him either. He went ahead despite obstacles on the social and economic fronts, proving himself to be a man of substance. Finally, the project attracted the attention of the concerned. He was held in high esteem and recognition followed.
Named among the 100 most influential persons by Time magazine five years ago, the school dropout had started his life as a welder at Pudur in Coimbatore. Despite undergoing turmoil, he could develop an innovative machine costing less than Rs.1 lakh to make low-cost sanitary napkins, ushering in a revolution of sorts.
Having had won the National Innovation Foundation’s Grassroots Technological Innovation Award from the Indian President, he undertook a mission to take the machine to remote corners of the country, with a view to helping the rural women. Various women self-help groups embraced the mission. The Bollywood film ‘Padman’ projected his story further. The Delhi State Education Board has reportedly approached him for permission to include his story in the curriculum for higher classes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has given Oscar to a documentary, ‘Period. End of sentence’,documentingthe life of women in Hapur village in north India in the backdrop of making low-cost sanitary pads, taking a leaf out of the life of pad man.
The padman story remains unique, one with lots of takeaways for the discerning entrepreneur. What is true is that even an ordinary man can set a novel path and inspire a whole generation. Perhaps many start-ups have had borne fruit with the pad-man spirit. And many more could be in the line.