For the first field visited we went to the town of Wakaner, where we met with Mansukhbhai Prajapati and heard the story of Mitticool. When we arrived at the Mitticool premises, we first met the son of Mansukhbhai, Raja, who has been working for Mitticool for two years now. He showed us the showroom of the 130 Mitticool products. While Raja was explaining us something, Mansukhbhai himself entered the showroom and he showed us his innovations. The first innovation was an automated manufacturing process of tava plates, which was followed by the development of a water filter. In 2001, Gujarat was hit by a big earthquake, which affected Mansukh Bhai’s business because everything got broken and he made a huge financial loss in this period. However, a local newspaper published a story with a picture of the water filter developed by Mansukhbhai but the caption wrongly stated: “the poor man’s fridge got broken.” From that, he got the idea to develop the famous Mitticool fridge. His fourth innovation is a low pressure cooker, for which he got the idea from a student of IIMA.
After this introduction, we explained the purpose of the visit and the research and started with the interview. Mansukhbhai started telling about the harshness during his childhood, his family, moving from Morbi to Wakaner to find work, not finishing education, starting a shop with a friend, his work experience since childhood and finally about starting with the clay business.
Mansukhbhai worked in a factory but he had a strong desire to work for himself. One day in 1988 he met a moneylender, who was willing to give him a loan of Rs. 30.000 (350 EUR) with interest. With this initial investment, Mansukhbhai started the tava manufacturing company in his hometown Wakaner. His parents were also working in the pottery industry so he saw from close the suffering of people in the industry. Initially his parents were not very happy with his career choice, but he was convinced of his idea and the calculations he had made for the moneylender.
After the many clay innovations he developed, Mansukhbhai received an award for grassroots innovators from the president of India in 2009 and after that the success expanded. He got venture capital through an Indian governmental agency and knowledge support from a local grassroots incubation organization. This helped him a lot in developing and scaling the business. He also got international recognition and media outlets such as TIMES, Forbes and Discovery have shared his story – and Mansukhbhai is very proud of this.
Today, Mitticool is an enterprise that employs 80 people from the locality in manufacturing, has five people working on marketing and sales and is shipping products abroad, mostly to the Gulf States. The two sons of Mansukhbhai are also working for the enterprise – Raja for sales and Ravi for manufacturing. The path has not been easy until now, and both father and son know they need a lot of help also in the future –I assured them that I am willing to provide them help in any way possible I can.