It all started from a hostel room where Sudeep Sabat, COO, Mukunda Foods and Eshwar K Vishwa, CEO, Mukunda Foods would dream of building a McDonald’s of Indian foods just like many aspiring entrepreneurs. That's when they started with their first venture, a QSR, and their customers would love their Dosas and Idlis. It was going all well till they scaled up and opened few outlets. “We could not match the food consistency across the outlets, which affected our customer base. This was our encounter with the market reality of F&B business that scaling is tough, but maintaining consistency and controlling operational costs are tougher,” shared Vishwas by adding that the incident made the engineers in them awakened, and that’s when they started working on a solution to it. “Finally, we came up with World's first fully automatic Dosa-making machine, and we decided to be a catalyst in the making of McDonald’s of Indian Foods,” he pointed proudly. Read more about his story:
Overcoming the challenges faced
It starts with the basic question of the challenges faced by F&B business, then the research and development take around a year or a little more than that before we finally get these products in the market. For instance, be it a cloud kitchen & QSR, they struggle with perfect cooking of Rotis, Parathas, Kulchas; therefore, there is a need for a solution that cooks these items more efficiently and quickly. Our latest product E-Pan bridges this gap, and it comes with an intelligent system for puffing, requiring minimum human intervention. In addition to this, With F&B businesses back-ending their flatbreads, Patties, and Parathas into frozen food, E-Pan helps them serve these frozen items that taste like freshly cooked food items.
Driving the automation quotient
So far, Restaurants use to thrive on social gatherings, but pandemics changed how it works. As a result, we can see the shift from dine-in to delivery, and the customers seem to be happy with this change. However, the delivery model also comes with its own set of challenges like aggregators would hardly give you 10-15 mins for meal prep, which puts an additional load on your staff, and you might require hiring skilled staff. Maintaining food consistency also becomes another concern with a high dependency on human intervention. This is where Mukunda's automation solutions help them address these concerns and smoothen their operations.
What are some of the key services you provide to these brands?
We have automated 14+ processes that can help restaurants maintain consistency, reduce dependency on skilled labor and gain operational efficiency. Here are our four most celebrated products:
Wokie: A fully automated cooking station for Asian and Wok-based recipes.
Eco-Fryer: Automatic fryer for perfect crispiness and frying that also helps save oil and energy.
E-Pan: Makes wraps, Parathas, flatbreads effortlessly with its intelligent puffing system.
Dosamatic: Easy to operate machine that pulls of the absolute crispiness and flavors of a dosa.
Who are some of your clients? Are there any revenue-sharing fees or something?
We have clients from a different set of F&B businesses like Cloud Kitchen, QSR, Hotels, Corporates, etc., and to name some of them, we have Rebel Foods, JFL, Chayoos, Swiggy, Ola Foods, and ITC. Our standard revenue model is pretty simple, where every product has a fixed cost attached that the clients pay while purchasing the machine. However, while launching our latest product, i.e., Combi-Oven, we got a common suggestion from the market of having a rental model. This product tops the list of essentials for commercial kitchens, but the upfront CAPEX investment becomes a concern for QSRs and small business owners. Therefore, we have come up with a rental model that works well for the clients.
It is believed that with tech playing an important role, centralized data plays an important role in making business more automated. Why so? And, how are you helping with the same?
The centralized data and IOT help automations work at their best of capabilities and give decision-makers a lot more control over their businesses. At Mukunda, our machines are IOT enabled, so clients will have full control over setting up the recipes based on their Sops, and they can also modify it from the central location whenever they want. They also get to see a daily report like which are the highest selling food item all the locations, which are preferred in specific locations and these kinds of insights help them make decisions. To put it in simple words, the client will have control over wherever the machines are installed.
This helps them achieve consistency, and their staff can also multitask as the machines follow the sops anyway.
How have you made machines automated for cuisines? How much time did it take in research and development?
Our domestic kitchens have different cookware set for different kinds of cuisines as it largely impacts the final food. The same logic goes with commercial kitchens; most of the time, challenges faced by them are cuisine-specific. For example, tossing Chinese food might not sound like a tedious job, but it requires skilled labor, and the attrition rate is too high in the F&B services business. Wokie from Mukunda is a solution to these challenges, and it can cook any toss-based recipes as per the standard Sops. Similarly, Eco-Fryers solves the problem of under and over-frying fried items. Ideally, the research and development take around a year, including market validation and product trial at actual commercial kitchens.
Going with the trend
India took a comparatively little longer to adapt, whereas countries like Australia, Canada, and United States were more open. However, Indian Restaurants became more receptive to technological advancements in a post-Covid situation since there was a concern of skilled staff and labor because of the migration. In addition to this, hygiene and safety became a priority, and Kitchen automation solutions could easily bridge these gaps. To put it in context, Mukunda signed up three times of customers compared to FY 2018-2019. So, I would say kitchen automation emerged as a stronger player during the Pandemic in India and is expected to get stronger in the coming times.
What's your global presence? What's the expansion plan?
So far, we have helped automate 2000+kitchens across 22 countries, but we haven't made conscious efforts to penetrate the international market. There is a fairly decent demand for automated kitchen equipment for Asian Foods in Australia, Canada, United States, and the UK. There is also a demand for solutions that are more functionally and operationally efficient than aesthetically. So, with nine amazing products in our kitty, our focus will be to penetrate these markets as we are finalizing some global distribution partners.