D Savithri, 30, a housewife, and A Mohana Sundaram, 19, a polytechnic student, hail from a family of pottery makers. At Perumudivakkam village, 40 km from Chennai, inside the Integrated Pottery Development Centre located amid lush green agricultural lands, the duo is busy training seven ladies to make microwaveable clay utensils that can withstand heat for up to an hour. They use machines and moulds made by IIT-Madras.

The centre has been set up to help traditional potters in the village make diversified microwaveable clay products. Funded by Indian Oil Corporation, the centre is supported technologically by Rural Technology Action Group IIT Madras (RuTAG) – right from designing grinding wells; plunger; pug mill to electric furnaces (instead of sunlight); and the moulds. The Centre for Social Development (CSD), a Nagercoil-based NGO, is the implementation partner.


“Pottery always interests me, but the traditional way is laborious. The machines have come as a blessing. Along with Sundaram, we plan to run the centre in the long run,” said Savithri. In the traditional way, 40-50 utensils can be made a day, while the machines can churn out nearly 10 times that number, she added.

Training imparted

A total of 82 persons have been trained so far in hard and soft skills on various types of clay products, she said. Many traditional potters’ families are economically poor. The machines improve productivity. There are nearly 20 pottery-making families in Perumudivakkam village. The wastage is nearly 30 per cent in the traditional pottery (makes the profession less attractive), while it is almost nil using the machines and moulds, said Sundaram. This could give a lifeline to an art (pottery) that is dying.

Those who love to have ‘natural’ and organic food would surely love the microwaveable pottery as chemicals are not used. “It is like going back to the old days of food preparation,” he added.

The microwaveable cooking utensils will help sustain the traditional potters, says Prof. Abhijit P Deshpande, Professor-in-Charge, RuTAG-IIT Madras.

The price of microwaveable clay products is 80 to 90 per cent less than other types of containers such as porcelain or glass with similar capacity. The production cost is minimal, and the pricing is made such a way to ensure good margins for producers, he said.

Health benefits

The health benefits derived through cooking in normal clay pots remain the same for these microwaveable clay products. The alkaline properties of these clay products have been tested and proved equivalent to ordinary clay pot. The food cooked through these clay pots could neutralise the acidity in foods and enable easier digestion, he said.

SS Sawant, Executive Director, IOC, said that as a result of the awareness and training programs on microwaveable pottery, a few trainees have got motivated to set up their own pottery units.

The CSD will facilitate the marketing of the products through local vendors. Synchronising government schemes and District Supply and Marketing Societies for establishing the buying end of these products supply chain is proposed as part of handing over the centre to local panchayats and Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission, said P Bagavatheeswaran, Director, CSD.