India’s Menstruation Man :The Sanitary Pad Genius

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Arunachalam Muruganantham with one of his machines for making sanitary pads: Aljazeera

Arunachalam Muruganantham was obsessed with making the perfect sanitary pad for his wife. After years of work, his invention has changed the lives of millions of women in India. Arunachalam Muruganantham’s invention came at a great personal cost – he nearly lost his family, his money and his place in society. But he kept his sense of humour.

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It all began in 1998, when Arunachalam Muruganantham, the son of poor handloom weavers in South India, realised that his wife was using old rags to deal with menstruation because she couldn’t afford sanitary pads. Muruga was shocked. But he also saw a chance to impress her. He decided to produce her sanitary pads himself. At first it seemed a simple task: he bought a roll of cotton wool and cut it into pieces, the same size as the pads sold in the shops, and then wrapped a thin layer of cotton around it. He presented this homemade prototype pad to his wife and asked her to test it. The feedback she gave him was devastating: his pad was useless and she would rather continue using old rags.

Where did he go wrong? What was the difference between his sanitary pads and those available at the shop? Muruga started experimenting with different materials, but was faced with another problem: he always had to wait a month before his wife could test each new prototype.

Muruganantham says that he was shocked to learn that women in rural areas don’t just use old rags, but other unhygienic substances such as sand, sawdust, leaves and even ash.

Women who do use cloths are often too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which means they don’t get disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene – it can also affect maternal mortality.

Muruga needed volunteers and had an idea where he might find them. He asked medical students at a university close to his village. Some of them actually tested his pads but they were too shy to give him detailed feedback.

Left with no alternative, he decided to test the sanitary pads himself. He built a uterus using a rubber bladder, filled it with animal blood and fixed it to his hip. A tube led from the artificial uterus to the sanitary pad in his underpants. By pressing the bladder he simulated the menstrual flow.

Unfortunately he began to smell foul and his clothes were often stained with blood. His neighbours soon noticed this. It was clear to them that Muruga was either ill or perverted. After a while his wife couldn’t stand the constant gossip. She left him and went to live with her mother.

But Muruga didn’t give up. He knew why he was going through all this. During his research he had learned that only ten to twenty percent of all girls and women in India have access to proper menstrual hygiene products. This was no longer just about helping his wife. Muruga was on mission: to produce low-cost sanitary pads for all the girls and women in his country.

It was two years before he finally found the right material and another four years before he developed a way to process it. The result was an easy-to-use machine for producing low-cost sanitary pads. Imported machines cost over US$500,000. Muruga’s machine, by contrast, is priced at US$950.

Now women’s groups or schools can buy his machine, produce their own sanitary pads and sell the surplus. In this way, Muruga’s machine has created jobs for women in rural India. He has started a revolution in his own country, selling 1,300 machines to 27 states, and has recently begun exporting them to developing countries all over the world.

Today he is one of India’s most well-known social entrepreneurs and TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014.

Several corporations have offered to buy his machine, but he has refused, instead preferring to sell to women’s self help groups.

Some Facts:
* 300 million: The number of women in India without access to safe menstrual hygiene products.

* 1 in 5: The number of girls in India who drop out of school due to menstruation.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Book Review: Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by Ryan Blair

It’s a bit unusual to read a book on entrepreneurship by someone who considers hip hop artist Eminem one of his “heroes.” But then again, Ryan Blair, the author of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain, is not your ordinary multimillionaire serial entrepreneur.

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A heavily tattooed, former Los Angeles gang member arrested 10 times for a variety of offenses, Blair recalls that his first introduction to computer technology occurred when he borrowed a friend’s computer to carefully recreate his report card, turning bad grades into passable ones. The task was an important one, since bad grades meant a severe beating from his viciously violent, drug-addicted father. After discovering a passion for computers during a stint in jail, Blair was soon breaking into computer stores and stealing books on how to repair and program computers.

Despite his strong technology interests, there is little doubt that Blair would have ended up in prison or dead if not for the arrival of Robert Hunt, a successful real estate entrepreneur who fell in love with Blair’s mother and moved both of them out of the rough, gang-ridden neighborhood in which they lived. Hunt not only offered Blair a new home, but also a job as a gopher with his company (Blair also had to return to high school — that was part of the deal). Eventually, Blair got a job as a $6-an-hour customer service representative at a company called Logix. But it was the Logix computer data center that interested him and Blair soon moved over to the data center as a technician. Within two years, using the hustle and nothing-to-lose attitude that had served him so well on the streets, Blair was made a vice president of the company, earning $100,000 per year. He was all of 20 years old. But by that time, the former gang member had other ambitions: to start a 24-hour-a-day technical support service that he would call 24/7 Tech — his first company. Since then, Blair has created or invested in a variety of companies, eventually selling them for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Golden Rules

Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain is part autobiography and part how-to entrepreneurship book. As a serial entrepreneur, Blair has numerous stories of mistakes, risks, setbacks and great wins to tell, drawing powerful lessons for entrepreneurs from each story. When he started his first company, for example, Blair called himself vice-president. He didn’t want clients to know that it was the CEO/founder in their offices making a pitch for their business. He lost control of another company he had financed after having a one-night stand with one of the company’s 10 employees (both were single). The moral of the story: “Don’t do your business where you do business.” When the company failed under the new leadership, Blair started another company with the same business model.

Blair is an opinionated man with an attitude, but he is not afraid to express his appreciation for the people who have supported, mentored or inspired him to success — from his stepfather to such luminaries as legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden.

Filled with great, hard-earned advice, Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain is a fascinating book — at once entertaining, informational and inspirational — written by one of America’s most unique entrepreneurs.

Culled from Soundviews Executive Book Summaries

Nick Woodman: The Eccentric Billionaire

Nicholas D. “Nick” Woodman  was born on June 24, 1975. Nick  Woodman is an American businessman, the founder and CEO of GoPro. Woodman is known as the “mad billionaire” due to his unconventional behavior and eccentricities.

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Woodman’s father was a Quaker Christian who co-founded the investment bank Robertson Stephens; and his mother is of Hispanic descent . Woodman is married to Jill R. Scully and they have two children. They live in Woodside, California.

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He earned a B.A. degree in visual arts and a minor in creative writing from the University of California, San Diego in 1997. After school he founded a marketing company called funBug but after it did not succeed, in 2002 at the age of 26, he decided to travel around the world surfing.

It was while on hiatus in Australia and Indonesia, he used a 35mm camera attached to the palm of his hand by a rubber band to try and capture his surfing activities on film.

Seeing that amateur photographers like him – who wanted to capture quality action photos of their activities – had difficulties because either they could not get close enough to the action or were unable to purchase quality equipment at affordable prices, his trip became his inspiration to found GoPro. His solution was to develop a belt that would attach the camera to the body.

Woodman and his future wife Jill financed the business by selling shell necklaces they bought in Bali (for $1.90) from their car along the California coast (for $60) combined with $35,000 borrowed from his mother and $200,000 borrowed from his father.

His desire for a camera system that could capture close up footage inspired the ‘GoPro’ name. The original cameras he developed were point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras which mounted to the user’s wrist. The product has since evolved into a compact digital camera that supports WiFi, can be remotely controlled, has waterproof housing, records to a micro SD card, and is affordable to the average action sports enthusiast ($200–$400).

In 2004, he made his first big sale when a Japanese company ordered 100 cameras at a sports show. Thereafter, sales doubled every year and in 2012, GoPro sold 2.3 million cameras. In December 2012, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn purchased 8.88% of the company for $200 million which set the market value of the company at $2.25 billion making Woodman, who owned the majority of the stock, a billionaire.

Nick Woodman won the 2013 National Award Winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

As of 2014, he is worth an estimated US$4.8 billion.

Culled from Wikipedia