The ultimate test of one’s culinary skills is often associated with the roundness of rotis or chapatis that feature on the plate of most north Indian households. You can attain mastery over recipes of all kinds of exotic dishes, but if your roti fails to be of right consistency and shape, you will be deemed an imperfect cook. And kneading the dough is no easy business. Just the thought of having to struggle through portions of flour and water can lead any chapati lover astray.
Bengaluru-based Mukunda Foods, a kitchen robotics company, noticed this and plenty of other lags in the food segment and came up with the idea of creating automated machines to make up for incompetence in our kitchens. Founded in 2012 by engineer duo Eshwar K Vikas and Sudeep Sabat, the company took cues from the analogy of coffee dispensing machines and developed products like Dosamatic and Doughbot, priced at around `2 lakh each, to make the task of creating perfect dosas and rotis relatively easy, efficient, convenient, and less of a hassle.
"The food industry is expanding at a rapid pace because of which it is facing challenges in hiring labour and maintaining consistency and taste of food. These are the two specific areas that we aim to tackle by way of kitchen automation," says Vikas. The duo first developed Dosamatic - a fully automatic tabletop dosa-making machine - during their engineering days at SRM University, Chennai, where dosa lover Vikas thought of developing a product that would serve up crispy and authentic dosas. After conducting a successful pilot in a nearby stall, the engineering graduates worked further on their models to introduce refined versions to the market after their course completion. It soon caught the attention of angel investors, and the company, since, has successfully received funding to the tune of crores in two rounds.
While the company has been around for more than seven years, the Mukunda Foods team believes that they have truly arrived just now. "Due to the change in consumption patterns, cloud kitchens and quick service restaurants are set to become mainstream, and, therefore, kitchen automation will be the next big thing in the segment. Our focus now is to increase awareness and work more towards identifying pain points in the process of food creation and delivery among brands, and develop customised automation accordingly," says Prateeksha Rawat, head of marketing at the company.
While the concept of kitchen automation is yet to gain massive traction, a number of players such as Agrima Infotech, Gulpie and Mechanical Chef have disrupted the space to capture a sizeable share in the fairly new market. What sets Mukunda Foods apart, as per its founders, is its ability to be as flexible and open to customisation as possible. "We have worked and continue to work extensively with the human side of the segment, chefs, while developing machines for their kitchens. Every restaurant cannot have the same tasting dal makhni, for instance. So we work on the recipe with the chefs and let them take a call on the steps of automation they wish to follow," says Rawat. "Besides, all our machines are 100% IoT (internet of things) -powered. All one has to do is upload the recipe on cloud so that we can meet the requirements in less than half-a-day," adds Vikas.
Currently, over eight-10 different types of Mukunda Foods' machines are deployed in 2,000 locations across the globe, resulting in their topline growing five times on a yearly basis. Going ahead, the team is looking to deploy 10,000 machines in the next two years.