Former President APJ Abdul Kalam called him a 'true scientist'. Mitticool, a clay refrigerator that works without electricity had turned the world's attention to its creator Mansukhbhai Prajapati, a craftsman based in Gujarat .
Image: Mansukhbhai Prajapati with APJ Abdul Kalam.
Presenting the national award to Mansukhbhai in 2009, President Pratibha Patil appreciated his work and asked him for a Mitticool.
Scientists and journalists from across the world have visited his unit to see how he makes eco-friendly products at a low cost.
A school drop-out, he has achieved a feat that many in the world envy today. The simple and unassuming Mansukhbhai is not keen on money. His ambition is to make more low-cost and eco-friendly products for the masses.
"I failed in the tenth standard. But I was not disappointed as I knew that I was capable of making something new," says Mansukhbhai who holds a patent for Mitticool.
People who considered him as incapable, now look up to him. They say, "you are the pride of our community!"
He has been popularising earthen products since 1988. The only drawback for him is the lack of stores to sell them.
The products are mostly available in Gujarat and in some stores in Mumbai and Pune only.
Besides, the low-cost fridge, he has developed a water filter, non-stick tava and a pressure cooker all made of clay. And he has many more innovative ideas.
Image: Mansukhbhai's father at work.
Pottery has been the Prajapati family's traditional business. Mansukhbhai's family belonged to Morbi in Rajkot district.
However, his father gave up the profession as it was not getting them any money. It was all hard work without much gain.
Image: Mansukhbhai receives the National Award from President Pratibha Patil.
However, Mansukhbhai knew he needed to think differently and make innovative products. He took a loan of Rs 30,000 and started a small factory.
Image: Water filter.
His only regret is that because of poor marketing his products are not reaching out to many people. He, however, makes it a point to parcel products to people who are willing to deposit money in his bank account.
Image: Non-stick pan.
Later in 2005, he started the non-stick tava (pan) business. "My wife could not buy a non-stick tava as it was costly. So I thought many people would be facing the same problem.
Image: Mitticool fridge.
"When a foreign delegation came to meet me, we cooked food in clay vessels and served them in clay plates. They were very impressed and happy with our healthy approach."
In 2009, he made the clay pressure cooker. "It comes with a whistle too," he remarks. About 500 cookers have been sold so far.
He had to take a loan of about Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million) for the Mitticool project. He is still repaying the debt.
Image: Mansukhbhai with his products.
It takes 10 people to make a fridge in one day. Made from clay, the refrigerator can store water, fruits, vegetables for 8 days and milk for one day.
The upper part of the refrigerator stores water, while the bottom unit has space for fruits, vegetables and milk.
At present, he sells the clay fridges at Rs 2,500, at his unit. Most of the sales outside Gujarat are done during exhibitions.
Image: The popular clay pressure cooker.
"I have also been getting lot of calls from the US . It is amazing to see so much interest from abroad," he says happily.
About 20 units of Mitticool have been exported to the UK , Africa and Nairobi . He has now been invited to Africa to set up a unit there. "I have not committed anything but the most important thing is the soil. Gujarat has the best soil for pottery," he points out.
Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi checks the products.
Mansukhbhai had never imagined that his products would win him so many accolades.
Nothing can be as rewarding as such compliments. Money is nothing compared to people's appreciation. "Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi knows me by my name. He has been very supportive and told me to approach him for any problem," he says.
He says well-known activist and performer Mallika Sarabhai recently remarked that he should be made Gujarat 's brand ambassador.
Image: Mansukhbhai to be on Discovery Channel
He also enjoyed doing a shooting for a programme which will be aired on Discovery Channel.
"A team from the Discovery Channel took me around India . I enjoyed the trip. It was a wonderful experience. I had never
Image: Clay artifacts.
Mansukhbhai wants every Indian to have access to his products. There is very little awareness about the products though I try to participate in 2-3 exhibitions every year.
"I wish I could strike a deal with a retail store like Big Bazaar to get better visibility. I am sure if more people use our products, it will create more awareness about such low-cost products that are a healthy and cost effective alternative in the long run."
Advice to entrepreneurs
His advice to budding entrepreneurs is: Never think about failures. Never give up.
Put your heart and soul into what you want to do. Always follow the right path and have patience. Keep working hard.
If you wish to contact him
Dial: 02828 221156
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