One had read about the real-life accounts of women in rural areas who were unable to afford sanitary pads, while the other had read about unwanted water hyacinth causing environmental, economic and health problems in many rural areas.
Together, Ms Ho Yen Yee and Mr Andrew Yin, both 22, came up with the idea of producing cost-effective biodegradable sanitary pads for women in developing countries using these unwanted water hyacinth plants.
Introducing their business – named Innovative and Manageable sanitary Pad (I.M.Pad) – at this year’s Young Social Entrepreneur programme, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) final year students emerged as one of the four winners at the Pitching for Change forum.
“We thought it would be a good idea to incorporate water hyacinth into creating a low-cost and sustainable solution for women in developing countries through the creation of water hyacinth pads, as it would solve two issues at a time,” said Ms Ho.
The team aims to come up with a prototype of the product by June next year and will spend about two weeks in Pune, India in the same month to explore the proposed location for their factory.
They will also meet up with representatives from various non-governmental organisations and women self-help groups to discuss details about the marketing and distribution of their product.
To keep costs low, Ms Ho said the team intends to adopt simple methods of production, as well as develop cost-saving processes to make the product.
With the S$10,000 seed funding awarded after their win at the forum, the team is now looking for research partners.
One of the research institutes the team hopes to work with is the Lien Foundation – NTU Environmental Endeavour (EE2) – the philanthropic arm of NTU’s NEWRI (Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute).
They also hope to work with professors and students from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering and School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
This article was first published in TODAY