The Weekend Leader - Cool potter

‘Mitti-Cool’ fridge inventor always wanted to do something that is cool

Kavita Kanan Chandra   |   Mumbai


Vol 2 | Issue 23

It is a story of passion, dedication and determination. The innovator of eco-friendly low cost ‘Mitti-Cool’ refrigerator, Mansukhbhai R Prajapati (45), has given India a cooling system that can be used even in places where there is no electricity. Hailing from a poor family in a remote village of Nichimandal in Morbi, Gujarat, Prajapati is a potter with a difference.

Though financial constraints came in the way of his completing high school, he strove hard to raise his craft of pottery to a different league. The result was his most famous innovation, the ‘Mitti-Cool’ refrigerator, which has already sold over 5000 pieces in the market.

A cool deal: Priced at Rs.2500, Mitti Cool has capacity to store about 5-7 kg of fruits and vegetables 

Made of clay, the fridge that is priced at Rs.2500 works on the simple principle of ‘cooling by evaporation’. Its first model was modified to make it more user-friendly under the guidance of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. “The temperature inside the fridge remains 20 degrees less than the outside room temperature,” says Prajapati.

The fridge has a top chamber that holds about 10 litres of water, which cools the fridge in a natural way. The lower two compartments have a capacity for storing 5-7 Kg of fruits, vegetables and milk. Fruits and vegetables remain fresh for 6-7 days. Milk could be stored for three days.

“One of the most memorable days of my life was when (the then) President Abdul Kalam hailed me as a true scientist and spent 15 minutes talking to me about my products,” says Prajapati.

Aiming high: Prajapati is not finished yet. He has more projects on the pipeline including a green earthen house  

As one who always wanted to innovate, Prajapati used the hand press to make the earthen pans (tawas) used for making rotis in 1988. Till then the hand press was only used to make roof tiles. Using this innovation, he was able to make 700 pieces of tawas in a day as against a mere hundred that one could make with conventional methods.

Incidentally, the idea of ‘Mitti-Cool’ refrigerator struck him while reading the caption of a photo in a local daily which showed him sitting amidst broken pots and pans after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. The caption read, ‘the broken fridge of poor’.

“For five years I worked like mad on the project, spending long hours testing various types of clay, making different moulds for fridge design and spending money like water,” says Prajapati.

He now plans to make a whole range of earthen cookery utensils. He has already made non-stick earthen pans and earthen cookers.

“My dream is to make a green (eco-friendly) house with clay that should have no electricity but only renewable energy to maintain a comfortable temperature inside,” he says.

Having seen his poor potter father getting grains in return for pots and then working as a mason after his family was uprooted from Morbi to Wankaner after the break of Machhu dam in 1979, Prajapati always wanted to start an enterprise of his own.

His initial struggle saw him working in a construction industry and for some time in a brick kiln. As his heart was not in those jobs, he joined a pottery unit and worked there for four years to learn the nuances of the craft.

“My father always dissuaded me from pursuing pottery, saying there was no money in it and no one would let their daughter marry me,” recalls Prajapati, who has made his parents proud through the same pottery today.

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