As people see more safety in home-cooked food over outside food, they are ready to opt for hygienic automated cooking. This young Delhi startup is scrambling to meet rising demands.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ensured that most are not trusting outside food. Naturally, every household is experiencing a spike in the amount of home cooking. We Indians do enjoy cooking, but when there is also a lot of other things to do, some help in the kitchen would always be welcome. That’s where automation comes to the rescue.
The Tech Panda spoke to Prachi Bansal, Co-founder of Dextin Technologies, a Delhi-based startup that has come up with an app controlled automated cooking system called Foodin. The Internet of Things (IoT) based device was originally designed with busy professionals and working mothers in mind, who don’t have the time and energy to cook.
People are now showing more interest in buying our product and are enthusiastic for it to be launched. Thus, we are working faster than ever to get this to the market.
However, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bansal says they are experiencing a surge in demand for their product. The pandemic has brought in a health conscious wave across India, so that people are refraining from ordering food online and are seeking effortless and hygienic cooking.
“We have been getting an overwhelming response from our target audience for the product. People are now showing more interest in buying our product and are enthusiastic for it to be launched. Thus, we are working faster than ever to get this to the market. But the lockdown is posing many difficulties for us to get the work done,” she says.
It Began with a Craving for Home Food
Bansal, who belongs to a business family, says she and her Co-founder Anshika Jain, were always motivated to become entrepreneurs. Also, both being mechanical engineers, were keen on making new innovative things. Bansal says inspiration came to them while sitting in their college hostel room and deciding what to eat.
“We both discussed how fed up we were with the hostel food and how we refrain from ordering food. Absence of hygienic and healthy food was a problem faced by every hosteller. Thus, we came up with the possibility of an automated cooking system that can cook vegetables like our moms,” says the 22-year old.
After researching the idea, they realized that apart from their fellow hostellers, bachelors and bachelorettes who were living alone, or working married women juggling responsibilities at home, also desired such a product.
“Thus, we decided to take upon this challenge and get a product to market that could cook what you want, like you want, and when you want,” she says.
In July of 2018, Bansal and Jain entered the India Innovation Challenge Design Contest 2018 organized by IIM Bangalore with their idea of an automated cooking system. A year later, after winning the competition, they received a funding of Rs. 25 lakhs to pursue their dream.
“We are a young women led startup that wishes to make life less stressful and healthier for all the working moms and bachelors,” says Bansal.
So far, Foodin is a working prototype while Dextin is working on the market research.
Just Load and Press Start
The word Foodin (food + intelligence) cooks single pot recipes like biryani and vegetables (with or without gravy) that do not require tempering. Just choose the recipe and load the ingredients and you will get freshly made hygienic food cooked according to your taste.
To use the system, after deciding the dish, the user has to either select the recipe from a pre-fed list or add their own recipe. Then, the user just has to load the ingredients and press the start button on the mobile app.
To add a new recipe, you can select the ingredient that has to be added in the order that they are supposed to be added, while mentioning the quantity of each ingredient. You can also simply press ‘edit’ and customize a pre-fed recipe and tailor it to your taste. Its features also include smart dispensing and chopping vegetables.
Bansal says, with Foodin they want to bring relief to all those working married women who just don’t get to rest.
“Juggling home and work is difficult, and we realize that. We respect all the work they do, and we just want to help them. This is our attempt to make their lives easier. They take care of their family, and we take care of them,” she says.
At the same time, the device will also help working bachelors and bachelorettes, who often miss their mothers’ cooking and those who don’t know how to cook.
COVID-19 Brings Challenges
As mechanical engineers, Bansal and Jain had little knowledge of how to build a startup. Consequently, their first challenge was to figure out how to move forward with the product.
Bansal says she is grateful for the training they received at IIM Bangalore’s innovation and entrepreneurship hub – N S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL), where Dextin was incubated.
“NSRCEL trained us on how to proceed with our idea and the mentors at NSRCEL have been guiding us in our journey. NSRCEL has been a blessing to us at the right time and it is proof that there are people out there to help you when you really want to achieve something. Every day we attended sessions, read books and watched videos to understand how to build our startup,” she says.
Their next challenge is to build a strong team. Bansal and Jain are looking to expand the team with the people who are the right fit for their vision. They are also looking for more qualified professionals for the technical aspects of their product. However, with the ensuing lockdown, it has been difficult.
“Due to the lockdown, it has been difficult to find the right person without getting to meet them once and hence coordinate with the team after that,” says Bansal.
India Wants Cooking Robots
Globally, automation in kitchen is reaching revolutionary heights with solutions like Moley’s robo-chef and Samsung’s Bot Chef, though they are yet to enter mainstream. In India automated cooking has showed its presence in the recent years with products like Julia Robot, Mechanical Chef, and Robochef.
People looking to be relieved from the task of cooking everyday often eat out or order in. However, post-COVID-19 times will definitely make people more conscious of hygiene. Though they would still be looking for relief from cooking. That’s where kitchen automation cooking devices like Foodin will help in a great way.
Even as we load our laundry into a washing machine and read a book while the machine washes our clothes, so can we now load in our ingredients, push a button, and dinner would be ready. Automated cooking promises the ‘Jetsons’ life we always coveted.