By Asmita Sarkar:
Mansukhlal Prajapati talks of his achievements with a pride that only comes with utter simplicity and humility. A self-made man, he started on his first invention in 1988. He had failed in class 10th, in 1982, when his father set up a tea stall for him in Wankaner, Gujarat. Later, he gave up the tea stall and began working in a factory. However, what he really wanted was to make a machine that would help him make tawas (flat iron plates used for baking bread) with clay. Inspite of discouragement from his father and the seth he reached out to for a loan, who told him that if you want to start your business you need to start with your hard earned money, Prajapati was insightful enough to know that without ample resources there was no way he could start working on his dream. And thus, with a loan of Rs 30,000, he started on his innovation.
An ecologically aware man, he realized that drinking water from the local pond, where people would wash clothes, take bath, as well as wash their animals, is extremely harmful. In 1995, he made the MittiCool water filter with 0.9 micro clay that would keep the water cool and safe for drinking. He says, “The poor man can’t afford the R.O water filter, the two piece water filter is priced at Rs 300-400 and is meant for the poor man. They can drink cool and clean water with ease.”
However, the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat turned out to be a grave setback. All his inventions – the tawas, matkas and filters broke. He says, “A journalist took pictures of the broken items and gave the headline Garibo ka fridge toot gaya, though he meant the matka. This gave me the idea to make a fridge with clay for the poor.”
He started working on the fridge in 2001 itself, though it took him four years and a debt of nineteen lakh rupees to make the final product. It was a method of trial and error, he says. The eco-friendly fridge, which was launched in 2004, was accepted by the world and is his highest selling product today. He proudly told me that no complaints have been received about the product till today.
His non-stick tawa got him the honour of being named as a scientist by the then President Abdul Kalam. He believes that eating in earthenware for a year can cure a man of diabetes and lifestyle diseases. He trusts in the natural qualities of earth which has “air, water, heat and other qualities.” He says, “The earth is enriched, it is where we find iron, gold, and other metals. Eating is earthenware makes the food so much tastier.”
A supporter of sustainable and community living, he invented a machine that would make firewood for cremation, from cow dung, in 2014. The machine facilitates a constant supply of firewood that the Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Trust donates every day for cremation.
His recent innovation is of a 10*10 feet room that would be cool and affordable for the poor man. He believes that his work needs to revolve around protecting the environment and health of individuals.
To young innovators he says, “You need to work in the field to gain knowledge about it, doing an MBA is not enough.” He adds, “Demand for items that are environmental friendly and good for the health will always remain.” Universities like IIT, MIT, Harvard, Cambridge and others use MittiCool as a case-study today. He has won numerous awards and represented India at the Shamengo Project Awards in Paris last year. He was featured in the book Jugaad Innovation which lists all the innovators who have found “an innovative fix; an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness.” His jugaad has today given him a company that is successful not only internationally, but in semi-urban and rural centers in India as well.