The Man who's Innovating the Future of Cooking
Eshwar K Vikas with his co-founder Sudeep started Mukunda Foods as a QSR brand wanting to build the McDonald's of Indian foods. Their outlet was selling dosas and idlis. While the business was good, they were not able to maintain the consistency of the food. Soon there were customer complaints as they expanded, and they could not manage the growth due to poor margins. "We decided to tackle the inconsistency issue by bringing in technology and hence started making robots to cook food at our outlets," shares Vikas. When other food brands found out that this new company has automated making food, Vikas was bombarded by requests to sell these machines. That's how the journey of Mukunda Foods started.
When it comes to kitchen robotics, globally the price point is upwards of 30,000 USD and it would never make sense for a food business to invest that much into automation. Mukunda Foods has developed low-cost robotic solutions out of India for the global market and has proved that scale. This is possible by end-to-end integration of R&D, in-house manufacturing, and service. Sharing more about this automation practice, Vikas says, "Hardware companies are tough to build and hard to grow. We have been able to weather the storm by building the largest kitchen automation company (in the B2B space) globally. With various of our products like Wokie (automatic Chinese and Indian gravy maker), DosaMatic (automatic dosa making machine), Rico (biryani making machine), and Fresh food vending machines, we at Mukunda Foods have made automation work for various brands." So far, they have installed over 2500 bots in 22 countries. Some of their leading customers are ITC, Rebel Foods (Faasos), Chaayos, Ola Foods, Wow Momo, Swiggy Pvt brands, Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Armed forces, and IRCTC. Initially, the company received funding from Indian Angel Network and later raised more money from Ncubate Capital. They plan to raise funds later in this financial year once they hit a 50 Cr run rate.
2020 was a watershed moment for the global food Service industry, and many of the outlets had to close shop. But on the flip side entrepreneurs running food brands had a lot of time at hand to perfect their operations as they were not under daily pressure anymore. So they came to Mukunda Foods for help in getting their back-of-the-house right, to be ready when the business was on track. So they did trials and demos with many food brands which are currently converting to good business. Talking about the growth, Vikas mentions, "Last year, we signed up a large USA based customer in the pizza automation space, and are seeing good traction for automation in SEA, we believe the next wave of growth will come from taking the Made in India products beyond our boundaries in huge numbers. We have already started looking for our next manufacturing line to meet global standards."
No. of co-founders: 3
Number of employees: 110
Year of inception of the company: 2012 (commercial activity 2016 onwards)
(This article was first published in the August 2021 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)