Solar power transforms Raghu’s pottery business

Raghu Ram Kulal potter SELCO India
Potter Raghu Ram Kulal, SELCO Foundation. Photo by Elisa Speroni.

Aloor is a pottery village in Mangalore, surrounded by beautiful coconut trees, palms and ashoka trees. Even though pottery is a traditional occupation in this area of India, many potters decided to give up their craft due to an erratic power supply, and the lack of market opportunities and general support. That was before SELCO Foundation, the IKEA Foundation’s partner, brought solar power to the village.

Raghu Ram Kulal, a potter we meet during our visit in Aloor, looks elegant in his traditional working clothes. He is completely spotless, despite his daily manual activities. He looks fresh even if today the monsoon is very strong and, for all of us, it is so difficult to breathe in his small workshop.

Raghu shows us the tools he used before and the tools he is using now that solar power has become a reality in his daily life. We sit with him and experience how he used to work, using a manual wheel, and his new way of working, using a solar-powered wheel.

Difficult and exhausting work

When we try the old way, we experience the heat, the humidity and the energy constantly required to move a wheel—the strength required to give shape to a piece of clay. Before solar power, his job was so difficult and so exhausting.

On top of that, every time he placed his pottery in the oven, which is the final step in making the terracotta ready for market, he lost an average of 20% of his products. A fifth of his hard work was completely destroyed.

Constant energy supply

With solar power, Raghu’s opportunities have greatly increased. He can create more products because the wheel is moved by solar energy and this makes his job easier.

On top of that, now he loses an average of only 2% of his work, once the pottery is in the oven. This is due to the fact all the steps have become easier and faster. Solar power guarantees a constant energy supply and this consistency is key to doing the best possible job, with as little waste as possible.

Raghu moves his hands quickly. He creates, he gives shape, he gives life to objects. And now you can see a pot, then a vase, then the Hindu God Ganesh, and then another Ganesh. Next week is Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of Lord Ganesh.

    Elisa Speroni