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.

Zimplistic’s kitchen robot is packed with high-tech features that make cooking unleavened flatbreads a breeze, and consumes surprisingly less power!

This is a story with a twist. Recently, my friend threw a quinceanera party for her daughter and I was asked to help organize it. The guest list had eighty names, and my friend was hell-bent on not hiring a caterer. Apart from rice and beans, green salad, guacamole, and tamales, a big part of the menu were tortillas and nachos. Now, making tortillas and nachos at home is tedious and therefore one can guess my surprise when a process that normally takes hours was completed in a small fraction of the time by Rotimatic – the first fully automatic robot designed to, well, make rotis.  

3A little more about Rotimatic

Honestly, this was the first time I used a kitchen appliance this futuristic and have been spellbound by it ever since. Zimplistic – the company that makes Rotimatic – came out with the prototype of the robot in 2009. After years of further research and several patents by founders Pranoti Nagarkar and Rishi Israni, Rotimatic is now recognized as the first fully-automatic roti maker created for use in the domestic kitchen available in international markets. The appliance is a massive hit with over 60,000 units already sold the world over and has crossed USD 60 million in sales in just two years after the Rotimatic’s launch. This can be attributed to its global appeal – not only does it make delicious and fresh rotis, but it also makes puris as well, and flatbreads such as pizza base ad tortilla, as seen in cuisines other than Indian. 

Rotimatic saves time and energy

The traditional method of making a roti takes about half an hour, and can stretch more depending on the number of rotis bring made. The process involves kneading dough from a mix of dry and wet ingredients which are added in a specific proportion. Paying attention to the proportion here is important because human error leaves open scope for the consistency of the dough to differ each time, affecting the quality of the flatbreads. The dough ball is divided into smaller segments, flattened into even discs and then roasted on an unoiled skillet or directly over a flame for a perfect cook time. 

Rotimatic takes less than ten minutes to warm up and then replicates the entire process in a matter of 90 seconds. But does this mean you’ll have zero control over how your roti turns? Absolutely not! A user can select from a provided range of flours, choose the number of rotis to be made in a batch, its oil content, thickness, flavors to add if any, and the level of roasting. Once these parameters are set, Rotimatic proceeds to make flatbreads of identical quality every time until the settings are changed. The amount of time it frees for the user, especially on a hectic day is remarkable!

Add to this its ease of maintenance. The kneader and the plate where Rotimatic rolls the dough balls can be taken out without any hassle and can be rinsed off or put in a dishwasher. The ingredient-holders are just as easy to clean. Rotimatic comes with cleaning accessories such as brushes as well. And since Rotimatic is IoT and AI-enabled, issues in its performance can be fixed from a remote location as well and won’t require to be carried to any service station. This is a relief considering the 39-pound weight of the robot.

Rotimatic’s technology saves power

One needs to consider the gamut of sophisticated technological features Rotimatic is equipped with and their range of functions to fully appreciate the comparatively small magnitude of electricity it consumes to run them. Rotimatic is AI and IoT-enabled can share data between synced smart devices through Wi-Fi, and upgrades automatically. 

A 32-bit microprocessor controls the 10 motors, 15 sensors, and 200 moving parts of Rotimatic to accurately measure and dispense flour, water, and oil for the dough, flatten it to the exact thickness specified, and roast it on heating plates till it puffs. The finished product slides out onto a tray attached to the front of the appliance. 

Surprisingly, the power consumption of Rotimatic is not much different from that of a high-volume microwave oven. It draws in the ~1500W range to warm up the required components and water to make 10 Rotis, with the least thickness and 3/4 roast level. The power consumption dips post this stage, rising again during the production of individual flatbreads. In any case, the power consumed is between 1.6kW – 1.8kW. The USA and Canada model has 110V voltage, and the UK, Singapore model, 220V.

Rotimatic is a must-buy gadget of the day

The automatic roti-maker is a blessing for times when you simply do not have the time or inclination to make fresh rotis, puris, tortillas, or pizza bases, but do not wish to each frozen or restaurant-bought alternatives either. Rotimatic is already a buzzword among the younger crowd of professionals and homemakers and is catching on in the older circles as well for the ease it brings to an essential kitchen chore. Domestic spaces are steadily infusing AI into its design, and the Rotimatic is just a glimpse of what an intelligent kitchen would comprise.

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. 

Werner Vogels’ reaches start-up hotbed Singapore and an intriguing conversation about future-tech with innovators Pranoti Nagarkar and Rishi Israni ensues. 

Tech-centric shows are a great way to stay up to date about what’s new in the tech world, the “Now Go Build with Werner Vogels” series on Amazon is one that has become a raging hit. In each episode, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels interviews innovators and gives an insight into the dynamic and rapidly evolving world of AI and cloud computing.

A recent episode of the show focused on Singapore-based husband and wife team of entrepreneur/tech expert and mechanical engineer, Rishi Israni and Pranoti Nagarkar – the inventors of Rotimatic. The kitchen robot is poised to change the way the world cooks one of its oldest recipes – the simple flour-and-water flatbread. 

The idea behind Rotimatic

It is no wonder that Vogels has chosen to explore the story of Rotimatic. The AI and IoT-enabled appliance are the only one of its kind and leagues ahead of its predecessors in the category of electronic flatbread or roti-makers. It is an antithesis to the notion that automation is eroding traditions since what it does is it implements technology to hold on to norms most dear to us.

What Pranoti and Rishi have come up with is an efficient system to replicate the process of making a roti (and other forms of flatbread such as tortillas and pizza base) in a completely self-governed machine. It aims to address issues that compromise our standard of living, be it is managing a work-life balance or health. As pointed out by Israni, “seventy percent of illnesses are lifestyle disease-related, and they are primarily related to the type of food you consume” and “one-third of the world’s food is wasted”. Rotimatic is the duo’s first step toward realizing their vision of a fully intelligent kitchen that will ensure a healthy diet for its users and minimize wastage of food at the same time.

Amazon CTO Visits Rotimatic Office
Amazon CTO Visits Rotimatic Office
The tech behind Rotimatic

Rotimatic is the amalgamation of the necessity to optimize time and expert knowledge in cutting-edge technology. Its prototype was first introduced in 2009 by Zimplistic. The home food robot has machine learning built into it, can connect with the wifi and sync with other smart devices, troubleshoot when needed, and update its software. The Rotimatic’s corresponding app will allow it to be operated from remote locations as well. 

Pranoti and Rishi Discussing about Rotimatic with Amazon CTO
Pranoti and Rishi Discussing Rotimatic with Amazon CTO
A quick overview of the benefits of having an intelligent roti-maker

The software makes it possible to track the number of rotis made using Rotimatic across the globe, customer satisfaction, and machine errors. This information helps the company prioritize issues that need to be addressed and fixed first.

Rotimatic collects relevant data from every roti it makes. This includes information concerning the content and quality of the food being prepared by the appliance. Users are also urged to rate the user experience on the display screen of the robot at the end of every cycle to help upgrade the system. Rotimatic gives a data-driven, data-backed understanding of the operations of the machine. 

A labor of love

However, its transition from a hardware-only device to incorporating a major software component was not an overnight one. Years of research following the realization of how complicated servicing the product would be led to implementing AWS and IoT into the Rotimatic design. The benefits of this upgrade have been evident from the first attempt to get the service right and it has facilitated collecting further data to improve the appliance model. The software is now crucial to extend the device into a platform that’s capable of making multiple varieties of flatbread. 

Is the world prepared to give their kitchen an AI and IoT makeover

Clearly, yes. Rotimatic is a device that instantly frees up about an hour from kitchen duty, especially for women who have been playing the part of homemakers. Making flatbreads of any sort is a cumbersome task and the kitchen robot takes the entire process into its stride and compresses it to a matter of minutes. The user decides the sort of bread they wish to prepare, which type and brand of flour to utilize, oil content, the thickness of the rotis, the number of rotis to be made in a batch, and the extent of roasting each roti should undergo.  

Compared to the traditional method of making rotis, using the Rotimatic is ridiculously simple, and helps keep pace with a world that is rapidly turning to automation. Rotimatic is available on the official website as well as on Amazon.