Inside the dark and dingy room on the terrace of a house in Tirupur, Coimbatore—the textile hub in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India — six women are hard at work. “We have just two hours before the power is out and we have a target,” Indumati shouts over the blaring sound of a compressor in the room. Cotton-like dust fills the humid room, but the women seem to be at ease even without masks. I cover my nose with a scarf as I watch them make the biodegradable sanitary napkins.
The women bought the machines from a company called Jayashree Industries a little more than a year ago. A social entrepreneur, Arunachalam Muruganantham, manufactures them in a neighboring town, Coimbatore.
The women faced resistance from their families: Their mothers-in-law told them, “it was as good as selling shit,” and their husbands refused to fund them. So, they micro-financed the venture instead. With an initial investment of about $5,000 on the machines and less than $100 in raw material, they started production. Three of the teammates had never even seen a sanitary napkin before—let alone used one.
Mother Care Sanitary Napkins, as they call their product, has a range of napkins, from ones for heavier-flow days to panty liners. There is another variant for women who do not wear panties, which is particularly necessary in rural India. This variety has an elastic belt to hold them up.
The team has an interesting strategy that so far has generated sizeable profits: They sell napkins in small quantities, even one or two at a time. They’ve also sent napkins to Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Singapore after individuals and charity organizations there placed orders. This morning the team is working on an order of 2,000 napkins for Nigeria.
Read more. [Image: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]