All-woman sanitary pad unit in Rajasthan an entrepreneurial hit | cities | Hindustan Times
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All-woman sanitary pad unit in Rajasthan an entrepreneurial hit

Within less than a year of starting production, Anandi -- a sanitary pad brand – has become a household name among women of Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan.

cities Updated: Aug 03, 2017 15:43 IST
Salik Ahmad
A worker engaged in making sanitary pads at a all-woman unit in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.
A worker engaged in making sanitary pads at a all-woman unit in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.(DD Saini)

What do you do when banks reject your application for loan?

Set up your own bank, like a group of women in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu did. And out of the novel idea was born a manufacturing unit for sanitary pads, bringing a hygienic practice among thousands of women in the district.

Within less than a year of starting production, Anandi -- the sanitary pad brand – has become a household name among women of Jhunjhunu.

Much cheaper than the branded ones, the Anandi pads are also said to be as good in quality.

The product is manufactured by a group of ten village women in the district, and nearly 1000 pads are sold every day through a network of about 5000 women health and anganwadi workers.

Umed Bhalothia, the supervisor of the pad making unit, said the group of women were steeled by constant rejection by banks.

One of the women who went to banks, she said they wanted the money to set up small units of dairy, papad, spices, etc.

“The bankers would rebuke us and say, ‘Koi kaam nahin hai kya, roz aake baith jaate ho? Jao, parso aana’ (Don’t you have any work to do? You come and camp here every day. Go, come the day after tomorrow),” Bhalothia replied.

Workers engaged in making sanitary pads at a all-woman unit in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan (DD Saini)

It was in 2014, she added, an official of the government’s women empowerment department (WED) suggested setting up their own bank.

The first collection in the bank, known as Amrita Multipurpose Primary Cooperative Society, was a modest sum of Rs 1,100. Today, the bank has Rs 4.56 crore in its coffers while another Rs 3.8 crore has been loaned to its women members, according to Viplav Neola, assistant director, WED.

The cooperative bank, which has some 15,000 women as members, gives loans to women at an interest rate of 8.25% and also provides insurance schemes to its customers.

It was in mid-2016 that the idea for the sanitary pad making unit was floated, again by the WED official, to provide employment to women as well as generate some profits. He, along with a few women visited places in Rajasthan, and also travelled to Mumbai , to learn about the pad making process, says Bhalothia.

The unit was established in Jhunjhunu by the end of 2016 at a cost of about Rs 22 lakh. It had two big machines to seal and deliver the finish product, while other smaller machines to grind the wood pulp, iron the mash, and one to gum the product.

The land and building was provided by the WED while a subsidy of Rs 6 lakh was given by the district industrial centre. Two experts from Mumbai trained the women in the process.

A worker engaged in making sanitary pads at a all-woman unit in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan (DD Saini)

“We first put the wood pulp into the grinding machine which churns out a cotton-like substance. We pick up 44 gm of that for a pad, iron it and put it in the machine which delivers the pad. After gumming, the pad is ready for use and we put it in the steriliser,” Bhalothia said, explaining the process.

The pads are wrapped into packets of eight pieces each and given to women for selling at Rs 25 a packet. The saleswomen and health and anganwadi workers of the district sell it for Rs 28, making a profit of Rs 3 per piece, Bhalothia added.

A branded packet of six pads costs anything between Rs 40 to Rs 60.

The WED official said the 10 women who make the pads get Rs 150 as daily wage. The unit makes a profit of about 50 paise per pad, after deducting the raw material, operational and employee costs, and the daily profit comes to about Rs 500 which goes to the society.

In another six months, the unit will be switching to another kind of wood pulp that will make the pad biodegradable, Neola added.