After much insistence from my wife, I watched the Bollywood movie “Pad Man.” I did not expect much from the movie, and so I went with an open mind. But after two hours and twenty minutes, the movie taught me several life lessons, which I’ve outlined in this blog.
The movie revolves around a middle-class man called ‘Lakshmi,’ who hails from a small town by the banks of the river Narmada in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Lakshmi works as a welder in a fabrication store. He is known for his adroitness and hard-working attitude among his colleagues and boss.
‘Pad Man’ depicts the orthodox mentality of the Indian society towards menstruation. Lakshmi is disturbed by the series of activities leading to this event which, in turn, leads him to invent cost-effective sanitary napkins for women.
Below are some of my learnings from the movie:
1. Jugaad is the ‘New Innovation’ - The movie depicts the power of innovation (read: Indian innovation), a kind of ‘Jugaad.’ Right from inventing an onion slicing machine to the pillion-seat of a bicycle, to inventing a cost-effective pad-making machine, Lakshmi shows the power of Jugaad. How it helps simplify the lives of people around and helps curb problems.
2. Look for opportunities around - The invention of cost-effective sanitary pads was a bi-product of Lakshmi’s vision to look at opportunities around him. He notes in the movie that only 18% of Indian women use sanitary pads currently and that there is an enormous opportunity to enter this field and solve women's problems. What I also liked was the way he framed an opportunity at towards the end of the movie by saying that “India is a country full of problems, and hence has multiple opportunities.” As a popular proverb goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”!
3. Collaborate with right people who can give you right inputs - Lakshmi was aware that in order to create the best product it is important to collaborate with the right people who can give ideas. So, he tried to connect with a student of Medical College with a hope of getting customer feedback and insights. He failed there. Then he worked as a servant in a Professor’s house with a hope that he will get insights from him. Unfortunately, he failed there as well. But, he got some very good insights from Google Baba!
4. Prototyping is the key to frugal Innovation - In the course of the movie, Lakshmi was told by a Professor regarding machines that create sanitary napkins which are worth crores. Lakshmi certainly could not afford the machine, but he tried to break the machine in four small processes and connected them with the closest possible processes from his day-to-day life. This helped him in creating prototypes of four different machines which combined gave the same output of the costly machine.
5. Empathy for the customer is the key to a sustainable product - Customer empathy means understanding the problems of the customers by keeping himself/herself in the shoes of the customers. In order to understand the real problem of women, Lakshmi approached several target segments (women in this case), but unfortunately every time he had to cut a sorry figure. He even went to the extreme and created a sanitary pad for himself to understand the problem. He failed at his attempt and was further ostracized. But, he did not give up and went to Pari (played by Sonam Kapoor in the movie) for customer feedback for improving the product.
6. Resilience and perseverance are the keys to success - Lakshmi’s character is a classic example of sheer perseverance and resilience for achieving success. He knew he was right, and he fought through all the obstacles with sheer conviction and confidence. Every time he came up with a solution, his ideas were rejected and scrapped by the society. But he did not give up until the end which led to his President’s award and the establishment of a sanitary pad making company called – Pari. Self-motivation and Can-do attitude are the ingredients of a recipe called “Success.”
7. The first customer is always special - For Lakshmi, Pari was the first customer of his product, and the movie depicts how special the first customer can be for a business. In current business climate, companies would do well to remember their first customers and where they were while starting the operations.
8. Think beyond money - The movie ‘Pad Man’ shows Lakshmi’s approach towards “Reciprocal Philanthropy” and giving something back to the society. When advised by Pari on filing the patent of his machine and having the opportunity to earn crores, Lakshmi is clear that his product should reach maximum women with minimum cost. He did not want to project his product as a money-making machine, and his sheer conviction changed Pari’s mindset towards making our society sustainable and free of problems.
9. For the right product, investment is not an issue - Lakshmi’s hard-work and dedication was a classic example that if you are confident about the product, then money will not be a hassle. The movie showed how Lakshmi managed to arrange INR 90,000 for setting his small workshop and the output resulted in a prize money of INR 2 lakh. That was just a beginning, and in few months he expanded his business by collaborating with the ladies of the village.
10. Marketing is an integral part of business success - When you have a right product, it is very important that you communicate it to the right people in the right language. This is where advertisement and marketing play a vital role. In the movie, the product takes a leap after Pari talks about the product to women and branded the product as “Pari.”
11. When you are successful, no one gives a damn about your past education - The movie ends with an emotional yet powerful dialogue by Lakshmi in Hinglish. A class 8 pass out, talking in front of UN representatives across the globe in his broken English language was a clear indication that when you are successful, people don’t care about your language and education. They just want to listen to your story. Your success story! The lessons of entrepreneurship are not necessarily learned only within the four walls of MBA colleges. Sometimes, life becomes a perfect teacher of several lessons.
Last but certainly not the least, a big salute to Mr Arunachalam Muruganantham, the real Pad Man, for his courage and dedication to bring change and smile among so many faces. Keep up the good work!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are author’s personal views and do not reflect that of any organization.