Taking Rotimatic from just a concept to a best-selling fully automatic roti-maker has been no child’s play for entrepreneur and innovator, but Nagarkar feels the results have been worth the hardships.

As a society, we are prone to associate kitchen duties with women, but somehow lack this tendency in associating high-tech kitchenware with the fairer gender. Singapore-based innovator and Founder of the first of its kind kitchen robot, Rotimatic, Pranoti Nagarkar has done her share to change the perception of women in the tech sector. Her company – Zimplistic – has crossed USD 60 million in sales in just two years after the Rotimatic’s launch, and is set to announce a new fundraising round. Although exciting and fulfilling, Pranoti’s passage to break into an unproven market to then become a name to reckon with was not an easy one. 

Pranoti Nagarkar
Pranoti Nagarkar
Pranoti Nagarkar – the brain behind Rotimatic 

Pranoti’s drive to pursue a career in engineering stemmed from her love for exploring her creative side to invent contraptions. Today, Nagarkar is the founder, co-CEO, and lead designer at Zimplistic. The tech innovator is also a hands-on mother of two. 

She is a Mechanical Engineer and considers the prototype for an ironing machine she built in her junior year at college as a warm-up to the 8-years-long challenge to launch Rotimatic that she would commence after graduation. Currently, her professional responsibilities include managing the scaling efforts in the 20 markets Zimplistic operates in. 

The inspiration behind Rotimatic

Pranoti and her husband, Rishi Israni, realized the need for an effective automated flatbread-maker in their initial days in entrepreneurship. According to Pranoti, this stage is one where new business owners need to be careful with budgeting, given that entrepreneurs do not receive a set salary in the early days of running a company. Therefore, eating home-cooked meals not only ensure better health by steering clear of readymade meals, but it is also a great way to save money on restaurants. 

The task of making rotis is complex and demands labor
The task of making rotis is complex and demands labor

However, the task of making rotis is complex and demands labor. It involves mixing the base ingredients – flour, water, and oil – in the correct proportion to knead into a dough of ideal consistency. This dough is then separated into smaller sections and rolled into evenly flattened discs. The last step is to roast these uncooked dough discs on heated pans or directly over a flame. The fact that a food as basic as a roti required so much effort, and despite all the technological advancements made in today’s world the only way to make rotis was by hand seemed unbelievable. 

To Pranoti and Rishi, this presented a real-world problem that could be simplified with automation. Thus, they collaborated to bring about Rotimatic, the first kitchen robot to fully automate the process of making a roti, and spent eight years bringing the product to market. The intelligent appliance has numerous moving parts, motors, and electronics, and incorporates sophisticated software, artificial intelligence, and IoT in it as well.  

Initial challenges faced by the entrepreneur

The primary obstacle Pranoti had to overcome was to convince market players of the potential of her product, which proved to a big challenge especially in an unproven market. The technology risks were significant, and skepticism regarding the plausibility of manufacturing a complex machine such as the Rotimatic on a large scale had to be logically quelled without compromising the quality of the product itself.

As a new mother, the responsibilities only piled up for Pranoti who was now balancing her role as an attentive parent as well as a budding businesswoman. Five years later, Pranoti believes balancing work and personal life has become easier given that she now works with a larger team and her products are already out in the market. In 2013, the biggest hurdle to overcome as a founder of a start-up was getting the Rotimatic ready for launch, and overseeing every aspect – from design to manufacturing.

Team Zimplistic
Team Zimplistic
Future for Zimplistic 

Pranoti Nagarkar has come a long way as an entrepreneur, and she considers her first big achievement in this role to be the successful building of the product itself. The Herculean task took eight years and the results have been worth it for the makers as well as the consumers both. As of now, Rotimatic by Zimplistic is a part of 60,000 homes in 20 countries, the units purchased exclusively through their website. The appliance has been updated to make pizza bases, tortillas, and puris as well to make the product more relevant to broader demography. It is a popular kitchen assistant in the US where the company makes about 60–70% of sales. Other markets where Rotimatic is doing well are in including Australia, the Middle East, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These are the markets that have many Indian expats

Zimplistic is now all set to raise more funds. The aim is to implement the capital to improve the unit economics of the appliance, marketing, as well as to boost sales and distribution. 

Pranoti’s mantra for giving her career her best every day of her life

The tech innovator has her hands full but remains motivated through meditation and sheer grit to keep going even when the going gets tough. It helps her make some of the most crucial decisions to scale her company, and the most important one till now, she maintains, has been to onboard her software engineer husband.

Domestic work has been the responsibility shouldered by women for centuries without pay, but things could change with greater participation of men in this area.

Memories from childhood, for most of us, are often built around the wholesome meals our families would come together to enjoy. Be it special occasions or the daily breakfast, these delectable dishes were primarily prepared by our mothers or grandmothers. Certain recipes are even passed down through generations and are identifiable by the label “grandma’s special casserole” or something similar. Although we relish the spread, given a closer look the biased woven into this allocation of responsibility is clear – kitchen duties are traditionally feminized. This labour, however, goes unrecognized, and, therefore, unpaid. We agree that change is coming, albeit at snail pace through government policies and technological innovations such as the advent of smart kitchens, a discussion on the current state of affairs is important.

Let’s start with the idea of unpaid care work…

That fundamental characteristic of unpaid care work is that it is not directly remunerated. Ideally, any work of this nature should be included in the calculation of GDP. For instance, calculations that were done but feminist economists and statisticians in Argentina give is a figure of 7% of GDP, and in a less developed country like Tanzania, it was seen to be an even higher figure, about 63%. If the unpaid care work done in Switzerland were to be valued and added to the GDP, it would be almost as big as the banking and insurance industry of the wealthy European nation. The problem peaks in India, a country of 1.3 billion people, where the work contributed by 49% of the population goes unaccounted for, giving a hard blow to the GDP. Women here dedicate about 352 minutes into domestic work every day – a number comparatively massive to the 51.8 put in by men

Why doesn’t this labor make it to the GDP?

From a utilitarian point of view, domestic work doesn’t generate products and services for market consumption. Citing this logic, economists sideline a large chunk of the service done by women and exclude it from the GDP and employment metrics in general. Despite this, the significance of unpaid care, which can be described as the work done to create an environment conducive to building up a person’s capabilities, is immense remains unaltered.

“While much of this imbalance is explained by the discrepancy in care-giving and unpaid work, institutional and policy inertia, outdated organizational structures and discrimination, one additional explanatory factor is the skills differentials in the types of degrees women and men seek out in their education,” says the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Accepting domestic chores as formal work has more than one benefit:

First of all, such a move would boost the GDP of a country. Let’s take the case of India for example. According to a report released by the International Monetary Fund, the GDP of the country could grow by 27% if women’s participation in the economy were to be raised to that of men. 

Secondly, it would redefine how we currently understand labor. The exchange rate of any service on the market would not be the only determinant of the value of labor which should ideally include the effort invested in maintaining unity and functionality of families and communities.  

Lastly, viewing domestic work such as kitchen duties as accountable labor will entitle women to at least some extent of parity where time and energy are concerned. Empowerment would be the final goal.

Consequences of not rewarding care work

Data shows that almost 75% of all unpaid care work is carried out by women and girls. This unequal distribution between men and women penalizes women by taking away opportunities of pursuing a full-time job from them. A decent wage, being able to accumulate a pension and access to the benefits that come with formal sector employment is thus out of their reach. 

Policies and technological innovations could lessen this disparity

Redistributing care is critical and it involves rethinking and redoing our social relationships. States can make progress by ensuring good quality public services, and child care services. Also, you have to change your expectations and social norms so that women and men can share those responsibilities more equally. 

Just like dedicated policies introduced by governments, the private sector is also doing its bit to increase the participation of men in executing household chores such as cooking. The concept of intelligent kitchens that incorporate automated appliances is catching on with the promise of making kitchen work less cumbersome. Robots are simplifying cooking methods down to the fundamental food stable. Zimplistic, for example, has introduced Rotimatic, a compact robot that saves time and effort taken to make simple flour and water flatbreads, an accompaniment consumed by millions regularly. It market success speaks a lot about the demand for electronics that can make life easier and render free time more accessible to pursue other interests. 

So with more laws and high-tech solutions, we can increase the social expectation that more can be done to redistribute the work and not just say this is a private matter for families to deal with. 

Pranoti Nagarkar met Michelle Obama!
Pranoti Nagarkar met Michelle Obama!

Rotimatic’s pioneering design has made it an indispensable appliance that brings fresh, homemade food to children, curbing the need to consume easily-available junk food. 

The importance of bringing back the norm of growing up on a diet of healthy food is supreme in the present day. Because of the time crunch faced by parents, children bear the brunt of consuming fast-food or food items with a high content of preservatives in more than one meal a day. The result as we all can see is the increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, and other health conditions in our young. Luckily, the advent of high-tech machines in kitchens is helping turn things around, with pioneering inventions like Rotimatic catching the attention of leading social activists.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Obama’s role in healthcare

Recently, the founder of Rotimatic, Pranoti Nagarkar had an opportunity to meet with the former First Lady of the USA and best-selling author and activist, Michelle Obama, with the pretext of discussing healthcare. Obama is undoubtedly one of the most prominent faces of the movement to improve access to organic and nutrition-rich meals to school children. She led a public health campaign, “Let’s Move!” to promote a healthy lifestyle in children, aiming to lower childhood obesity to 5% by 2030.

Michelle Obama announced the campaign in 2010, and together with the presidential memorandum signed by President Obama called the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, actively worked toward the following goals:

  • Providing healthy formative years for children, including access to nutritious food in school
  • Empowering parents and caregivers
  • Increasing physical activity

 

Rotimatic resonates Obama’s idea of healthcare

Rotimatic resonates with the ideologies promoted by Michelle, primarily by aiding to replace fast-food with enriching and wholesome homemade meals. The world’s first fully automated rotimaker has compressed a task that would traditionally take about an hour to just a few minutes. Consuming home-cooked flatbreads had become a luxury, and therefore, rare, for urban families who were habitually picking frozen flatbreads or takeaways from restaurants.   

Rotimatic relies on AI and IoT to produce fresh, soft, and delicious flour-and-water flatbreads with consistent quality. A 32-bit microprocessor controls and synergizes the functions of 10 motors, 15 sensors, and 200 moving parts within the robot’s 40 x 40-centimeter body. Ingredients are measured, dispense, kneaded into a dough, flattened, and roasted in under 90 seconds – all without human interference.  The user can set the number of rotis in a batch, their oil content, thickness, and level of roasting. 

Self-reliance – a common thread

In her best-seller, Becoming (2018), Michelle talks about how her mother ingrained the trait of being responsible for one’s own well-being. She stuck to the lesson and made an example of this principle by nurturing a garden at the white house during her tenure as the First Lady to encourage the consumption of organically grown produce.

Similarly, Rotimatic has empowered a demographic made of students, professionals, and those who are not very adept at kitchen duties to be able to make their own flatbreads – be it rotis, tortillas, puris, or pizza-base. Since the appliance can be connected to wifi, tracked using the Rotimatic app, and troubleshooting can be done directly from the cloud. 

Health benefits of consuming fresh, homemade rotis

Take a look at the menu of your favorite deli and you’re bound to find an array of bread-based bites and baked confectionaries. A majority of them will have white bread – our go-to sandwich bread – or be made of white flour. This staple of childhood lunches is low in fiber and has a lot of preservatives that are only useful for elongating their shelf life and texture. It contains just the white endosperm, which is primarily starch and is completely bereft of the bran and germ of the wheat grain. Its nutritional value is thus very poor.

Packaged tortillas and pitas are also mostly full of preservatives and texture modifiers that have zero nutritional value. Additionally, these have high gluten content which is detrimental to gut health. 

However, the whole-wheat versions of these can be made easily and in a fraction of the time using Rotimatic. Unleavened flatbread such as rotis, puris, tortillas, pizza bases, and pita made of whole wheat have the following health benefits:

  1. It has more fiber and is rich in protein, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium.
  2. The lower starch content in whole wheat bread satisfies hunger pangs for longer.  
  3. Its low glycemic index helps control blood sugar.  

 

Rotimatic making healthy living a priority
Rotimatic making healthy living a priority
Rotimatic is in tune with the need to make healthy living a priority

The kitchen robot is an essential tool that is bringing in homemade food and therefore nutrition on our table without hassle and labor. Its necessity in this age of technology and grueling work culture is evident in its widespread acceptance across the globe, with the United States making up one of its biggest markets. The brand has already over 70 million units in the first couple of years since it hit the market and has a waiting list of customers keen on making it a part of their lifestyle. Since its inception, Rotimatic has stood for homemade goodness and nutrition, and its visibility has deservedly gotten a boost with being recognized by one of the best-known icons in the nutrition space.