As an ardent lover and supporter of Indian crafts, I have always lamented the fact that there are very few craftsmen who go beyond making the same products that their forefather used to make. I was excited when I finally got a chance to chat with the Gujarat potter Mansukhbhai Prajapati, an innovator who has helped transform lives with clay.
He is an innovator who has designed and developed India’s first terracotta refrigerator that works without electricity. He has also developed water filter, non-stick griddle pan and pressure cooker, all made of clay.
Prajapati was motivated to begin his clay innovations when he chanced upon a newspaper feature caption, “Broken fridges of poor”. Soon Mitticool was born. “The 2001 earthquake destroyed all the pots, and the next day’s newspaper’s headline was “Broken fridges of poor ”. I decided to make a fridge out of mud, which would work without electricity and the vegetable inside it would remain fresh. An eco-friendly fridge,” says Prajapati. To establish Mitticool, he had to struggle a lot. The struggle began when he had flunked class ten. A young but determined Prajapati worked hard to reach his goal. It certainly was not a cakewalk.
“At initial stage, when I started making fridges I failed many times. It took me 4- 5 years to make a fridge but while making this fridge I had taken a loan of Rs 19 lakh. At the same time I also didn’t know about how much temperature should a fridge have, how it should look like and how to design the door of the fridge. So for five years I researched and struggled to make it successful,” recounts Prajapati. After all these struggles, with determination and dedication, he finally got the taste of success in 2005.
With the help of Dr Anil Gupta of Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN), Ahmedabad, he launched Mitticool in 2005. Mitticool turned out to be a smasher as its maintenance cost is minimal. Its most important feature is that it can be operated without electricity, and hence was a boon for villages where power supply is always erratic.
Today, Prajapati has come a long way from his days of hardship. “We sell a minimum of 50 fridges, 500 filters, 500 pressure cookers and 1,000 griddles in a month,” he says. He has won several awards for his innovations both at international and national levels. One of the notable awards is from National Innovation Foundation. Recently, National Geographic awarded him the title of International Eco Hero (2010). Below, I have listed some of his prominent innovations.
Mitti Cool Refrigerator
It is a fridge for common man that does not require electricity, and yet keeps the food fresh. It works on the principle of evaporation. Water from the upper chambers drips down the side, and gets evaporated, thus taking away heat from the inside and leaving the chambers cool. A small faucet tap is also provided at the front lower end of chamber to tap out the water for drinking use. In the lower chamber, two shelves are provided to store food material.
Non-Stick Earthen Griddle Pan
Prajapati has come up with an innovative idea by making a fusion of traditional and modern technology. He is a master of making clay griddles because it is a family business, and to it he has incorporated the modern technology of non-stick coating. The combination takes shape in the form of non-stick earthen griddle pan.
The innovator has beautifully moulded the clay to earthen cooker. But the cooker is made out of special clay. One has to follow certain direction before using the cooker; after cooking food, it is instructed not to put the cooker directly on the floor or on kitchen top.
Clay Water Filter
Clay water filter is another interesting innovation of Prajapati. It can take 10 litres of water. The filter cleans two litres of water in one hour.
Prajapati has taught a lesson to all those people who have lost hope to live again after the natural calamity. He has set an example that if one has dedication and strong determination to do something then he or she can easily dig well even in the desert.
Now his future road map is to build a earthen house, a house completely made of clay. “Now, I’m dreaming of making a Mitticool house, a house that is naturally 10-15 degrees cooler than its outside temperature, that, too, without fans,” he opines.