Arunachalam Muruganantham
Jayaashree Industries

From a poor background in the South of India, Arunachalam Muruganantham created the world’s first low-cost machine to produce sanitary towels. The creation by this Indian social entrepreneur has given women from low income groups in India dignity – making it possible for them to afford sanitary towels while providing them a source of income at the same time.

Muruganantham re-engineered a sanitary machine, and in 2006 it won the award for the best innovation for the betterment of society from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. In addition, Muruganantham also received an Indian presidential award for innovation. Currently more than 600 machines made by his start-up company, Jayaashree Industries, are installed across 23 states in India.

This social entrepreneur sells the Rs1,600 machines directly to rural women through the support of bank loans and not-for-profit organizations. A machine operator can learn the entire towel-making process in under three hours and subsequently employ three others to help with processing and distribution.