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‘We plan to penetrate Australia, Canada, United States, and the UK markets’: Eshwar K Vikas, CEO & Co-founder, Mukunda Foods

Thursday, August 19, 2021, 11:58 Hrs  [IST]
Asmita Mukherjee | Hyderabad

Mukunda Foods is a Kitchen Automation company that has automated 14+ processes, which help restaurants to maintain food consistency, reduce dependency on skilled labour and gain operational efficiency. Some of their products include Wokie, a fully automated cooking station for Asian and wok-based recipes; Eco-Fryer, an automatic fryer; Rico, a rice, pasta, and noodle-making machine, and Dosamatic, a fully automatic dosa machine. According to Eshwar K Vikas, CEO & Co-founder, Mukunda Foods, their machines have helped 3000+ kitchens across 22 countries to be automated through bots, such as Rebel Foods, Ola Foods, ITC, Chaayos, Swiggy, Wow Momo. Asmita Mukherjee spoke with Vikas to know more about the disruption created in the F & B industry by kitchen automation.
How do your products empower the hospitality industry? 
Each of our products has been designed to be highly problem-solving, while their core enables the food outlets to increase revenues while reducing the operational cost. For example, tossing Chinese food might not sound like a tedious job, but it requires skilled labour, and the attrition rate is too high in the F&B services business. Wokie is a solution for these challenges, and it can cook any toss-based recipes like Chinese foods and Indian gravies, as per the standard SOPs. Similarly, Eco-Fryer, an automatic frying machine, solves the under and over-frying of fried items and ensures zero wastage.  
So, our automation solution not only answers many of the kitchen operation challenges but also empowers restaurant owners to scale fast. 
Kindly inform us about the proven ROI of your products. 
Installing our automation solution doesn't get expensive, since any outlet would achieve its ROI between one month to a maximum of four months. To put it in perspective, let me take an example of an Eco-fryer, an automatic frying machine that can fry burger patties, nuggets, French fries, etc.  
When you get an automatic fryer, you don't need a dedicated, skilled resource since they can multitask, leading to around a 90% reduction in labour cost. Coming to another significant spend, i.e., electricity, we can say that with automation, the electricity bill can go down by roughly 26% since it consumes less electricity, and you can keep the fryer in sleep/ electricity saving mode. The sleep and deep sleep modes also help to increase the life of the oil, so if you were used to replacing the oil eight times in a month, now you need to do that only six times which can help reduce the monthly oil cost by 25%. The wastage and pilferage are 0 % which usually contributes to 2% of total revenue.  
So, when one installs an automatic fryer that costs you around INR 33k, you can recover the cost in the first month itself or a maximum of two months, but you continue to save these costs every month. 
According to you, how can food automation change the landscape of the F&B industry?  
Automation solutions bridge the gap between food consistency, ever-increasing expenses, and longer turnaround- time by addressing the concerns and smoothening the operations. The automation solutions minimize human intervention and follow the exact SOPs as defined by the head chef, ensuring food consistency across the outlets. It also reduces the dependency on skilled labor leading to lesser labour costs.  

Automation helps to reduce restaurants' operating expenses, and increase profit margins, without the risk of scaring customers away by increased prices. 
How has the competitive landscape of the industry changed during Covid-19? 
Be it a fine dine or QSR, all of them had to move to delivery. The delivery model comes with its own set of challenges like having less meal prep time, and food consistency has started playing a role more than ever. There was also a concern around skilled staff and labour, because of the migration. The situation imposed an immediate requirement of automation in the kitchens, and since there aren't many players in the segment, this indeed worked in Mukunda's favour. We signed up customers, which was three times the number of customers we signed up for in the last financial year. 

Are there any unique technologies or innovations that you plan on introducing into the market post-Covid-19? 
With F&B businesses back-ending their Flatbreads, Patties, and Parathas into frozen food, there is a dire need for a solution that can regenerate or reheat these food items into their original taste. Additionally, there weren't any intelligent grilling solutions for various food items like patties, kebabs, and sandwiches. So, our next innovation, E-pan, will address these requirements, and we plan to bring it to market by the end of this quarter.  
What are your key short-term and biggest long-term plans for the next quarter? 
There is a demand for automated kitchen equipment for Asian Foods in Australia, Canada, United States, and the UK. But so far, we have not made consistent and enough efforts to penetrate the international market. There is also a demand for solutions that are more functionally and operationally efficient than aesthetically. So, we plan to penetrate these markets as we are finalizing some global distribution partners.   
What are your investment plans? 

We have raised three institutional rounds of funding with the latest strategic investment from Ncubate Capital Partners, the venture capital arm of Gurugram-headquartered SAR Group. We are also planning for the next round of funding towards the end of this year.

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