Brand Update

Desi Brand

Mitticool - a product of Mansukhbhai

Mansukhbhai, 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. He has been popularising earthen products since 1988. Besides, the low-cost fridge, he has developed a water filter, non-stick tava and a pressure cooker all made of clay.

(Presenting the national award to Mansukhbhai in 2009, President Pratibha Patil)

Mitticool, a clay refrigerator that works without electricity had turned the world's attention to its creator Mansukhbhai Prajapati, a craftsman based in Gujarat. "A good majority of Indians cannot buy a fridge as it is expensive. Besides this, electricity bills and maintenance cost is also high. Mitticool is an eco-friendly product which has no maintenance costs. It also retains the original taste of vegetables, says Mansukhbhai who has sold 1500 units so far. The upper part of the refrigerator stores water, while the bottom unit has space for fruits, vegetables and milk.

The beginning

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. He being the only son was sent to school on the hope that he would do well in academics and get a good life. However, he disappointed them when he failed tenth standard. To make matters worse, he refused to take up construction work which his father had started doing. He was however forced to do all sorts of odd jobs. He even injured an eye working in a brick factory. "I was fed up. I wanted to start my own factory. But there was no way I could do it without resources. I joined a tile factory. I worked there for sometime. This was a turning point for me," he says.

He found that tiles were manufactured at a fast pace with a machine which was quite expensive. He took a loan of Rs 30,000 and started a small factory. At the age of 18, he made a machine, which could make 600 tavas a day instead of 100 tavas they used to make manually. This gave him lot of confidence to explore and innovate. He got the idea to make a machine for about Rs 4,000, which could help him manufacture more tavas than was being done manually. His initiative to restart the pottery business was not taken positively. But he went ahead despite opposition.

The business

By 1995, he realised the need to build a water filter. The market had steel filters which were not very efficient. After months of research and hard work, he built a water filter. Luck favoured him too. "A person who had settled in Nairobi heard about my project and approached me for 500 units. I was excited. I sold it making Rs 100,000 on the first sale. It was a good start. The product I developed was sold in Nairobi even before it sold in India," he says. The water filters priced at Rs 350 to 400 are quite popular. 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. That's when I designed the non-stick tavas, priced between Rs 50-100." It took him a year to research and experiment -- testing the material for the non stick coating etc. The food grade test for the pan was done by Tata Chemicals in Mumbai.

Mansukhbhai has sold more than 50,000 tavas. He had to make thousands of tavas before he made the perfect one.

Gujarat Grassroots Innovation Network and professors at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and the National Innovation Foundation, extended their help in the form of grant and guidance for getting the patent, making the packing box and lab testing of products.

The idea behind Mitticool

During the 2001 earthquake, all earthen pots were broken. Some people told me the poor people's refrigerators are broken. They referred to the 'matkas'(pots) as refrigerators.
It struck me then that I must try to make a fridge for those who cannot afford to buy a fridge. The patent winning Mitticool has been the most challenging product for him. It needed a lot of experimenting. He started work on it in 2001; the product was finally ready by 2004.
It took him almost four years of hard labour and an investment of about Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million). An engineer who saw the fridge asked him to make 100 units. This was a great morale booster. It takes 10 people to make a fridge in one day. Made from clay, the refrigerator can store water, fruits, and vegetables for 8 days and milk for one day.

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