In Conversation with… Jaikrishnan, Director, Rakaka Food Technology Private Limited.
What was the motivation behind your Startup and what is your startup all about?
In 2014 the I have joined Linkoping University in Sweden as a master’s student. I faced a lot of challenges in adapting myself to the new place and the new culture. Particularly faced a lot of problems with regards to having authentic Indian food which I’ve been used to all my life. Though there were a few Indian restaurants in the town, it lacked authenticity in the taste as it had evolved to match the needs of the European people. So I felt that there was a need to have some kind of an innovative solution through which one could get Indian food made in Sweden. This instigated some fancy and magical ideas. After a lot of brainstorming the ideas with my friends and family, the initial ideas were super complex and Fancy like having humanoids cooking with two robotic arms, a large churner to cook mass scale Indian gravies and so and so forth, but owing to the impracticalities involved in the ideas I was forced to learn cooking so that I could feed myself. That is when I started to realize the real problems in cooking. Then my vision crystallized and envisioned a world where it is not divided by the food that they eat and the process of cooking had to be simplified. For example, A person sitting in France should be able to cook an Indian dish, a person in India should be able to cook Italian pasta, a person in the USA should be able to cook Chinese food, and so on so forth. So digging a little deeper, I felt the main problem to address, would be to make the raw materials available for cooking their favourite dishes. Imagine a person who craves to have Italian pasta. One would need to have all raw materials for making them however the items need to be procured in bulk and will not be available for a single pasta. This means there will be large pockets of spices occupying the kitchen shelves for making just one plate of pasta. This would be a large turndown for most people. Thus I felt if in some way we could make the fresh ingredients available for making just one pasta in a box then it would be the best for people so it occupies the least space to cook that dish and once it is cooked we could just discard the packets. To understand the scalability of the problem that I faced, I spoke to a lot of people around. This broadly gave me a direction of the problems faced by the people in cooking. We have always been inspired by the philosophy of Zen. we wanted to build an ecosystem through automation yet not compromising on the healthiness and exquisiteness of the product. We started building a product by breaking down the processes involved in cooking, we ideated a product, which would automate the cooking process and at the same time be able to dose the ingredients in the right quantity to the device. However, the concept that we ideated had a large inventory making it impractical for people to have it at home. Upon further brainstorming with his team, we got inspired by how a VCD player functions. So, we built a simple plug-and-play device that would be able to cook any dish by just adding a tray consisting of the right ingredients in the right quantities. Thus making the device function just so that it can extract the ingredients from this tray at the right time and heat the contents to the right temperatures. This makes the device a global one, in the sense irrespective of the cuisine, the process of cooking remains the same, the distinguishing factor being only the ingredients(Analogical to how VCDs work) which will be a separate entity to the device. Also yet another inspiration from the VCD player is that the contents of the ingredients are stored in use and throw multi-compartment kits thus making the post-cleaning process easy. Hence this is how the ecosystem of RFT was set in motion. With this idea directly, we developed the first of its kind, patented IoT-enabled automated meal maker with its corresponding fresh ingredient meal kit. We have developed a Technology that Simplifies Cooking by creating a seamless ecosystem of cuisine agnostic food products through an IoT-enabled smart kitchen appliance This entire ecosystem is the first of its kind and has been granted a patent. The ecosystem offered by RFT is a conglomeration of technology consisting of all three aspects of a food-based company:-
A. The ingredient kit – A multi-compartment box consisting of organically formulated fresh ingredients quantified and hygienically packed.
B. An Automated cooking device- A plug-and-play model kitchen top appliance with premium features that cooks the recipe by extracting fresh ingredients from the afore-mentioned kit. This device is IoT-enabled for remote access and also cooks recipes based on instructions extracted from the cloud software.
C. The cloud technology (ITES) that connects the ecosystem acts as a platform between users, devices, meal kits, and our packaging stations. The cooking instruction will be developed on a cloud computing platform with advanced technologies incorporated like AI, ML, and other deep tech technologies, this ecosystem would be able to cater to the tastes, preferences of the end-user based on feedback This Conglomeration of technology through automation and its cloud-based memory provides a convenience that it offers to the end-user with a seamless experience of cooking, but without compromising on their health requisites.
What are the challenges that you have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic?
During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company experienced a setback mainly because the online food delivery market was severely impacted by the nationwide lockdown. However, many foodservice startups expanded their businesses beyond restaurant food delivery to target new customers and retain existing customers with other types of delivery services, which became a channel for us to increase our traction. This gave us a lot of confidence in this space.
What were the financial challenges that you faced for the start-up at the outset?
Initially, this company was completely bootstrapped, upon successful completion of our first stage POC, we raised funds from angel investors. Now we are looking to raise more funds to market this product and to validate this product in the market.
How do you see your digital presence growing, keeping in mind the current scenario?
The increased penetration of the internet since the pandemic has helped companies like us to reach out to more people and expand their delivery services. The importance of online transactions and other online activities was realized during the pandemic, both by customers. This will help the food tech market to grow throughout the forecast period.
What is your advice for emerging young entrepreneurs?
I would always encourage young entrepreneurs, to understand the problem statement, talk to potential customers, find out the real problem and solve the problem. Always start with the problem statement and end with the solution.