A Labour of Love…
I am many things - a mechanical engineer, an inventor, a businesswoman, a wife and a mother.
When I got married and started my career as an engineer, one of the key challenges I faced was making nutritious, tasty meals, while juggling a demanding, full-time career. I wanted us to eat well, but at the same time, I could not afford the time to make wholesome food from scratch. I realised this was a common problem many working women and parents faced—this is where the idea for Rotimatic was born.
The philosophy of Rotimatic is simple –a fuss-free, foolproof method to use technology to make perfect rotis (Indian flatbread) anytime. All you have to do is pop in the ingredients, press a button, and then go about your morning while your roti kneads, cooks and puffs in 90 seconds. In fact, many customers have told me that Rotimatic also keeps their children entertained while they go about their morning routines.
Another feature of the Rotimatic – it will never be obsolete! We are constantly updating the technology, and transmitting the changes to customers’ machines through an Internet connection. This means customers can enjoy more choices of breads in the future.
Pranoti with the many different versions of the Rotimatic
I wish I could say that the process of making Rotimatic was as simple as making roti with the Rotimatic--but this was a project that took eight years, with constant upgrades and tweaks along the way, until we got it perfect. At one point, we were making 2000 rotis a day in the office, just to test the reliability of the machine!
Being a mechanical engineer by training, I relied heavily on my business partner and husband, Rishi, who is a software engineer. While I focused on the hardware and design of the machine, Rishi wrote the code, fixed bugs, and constantly made updates to fulfil our vision of the perfect machine.
Pranoti with her husband, Rishi
Other than the time it took to perfect the machine, getting funding was difficult too. Not many people would invest in a hardware startup, so it was difficult to convince investors to have faith in us.
But, we never gave up on innovating and making improvements to the Rotimatic. Eventually, our efforts paid off, and we caught the attention of investors who were willing to give our product a chance.
The turning point came in 2009 when we joined the Startup@Singapore Business Plan Competition and won the top prize of $40,000. The following year, we got our first seed funding of US$400,000 from angel investors. Two years later, we received another US$3 million in funding. We also decided to harness the power of crowdfunding and got on Kickstarter. Not only did we manage to raise money from regular users who loved our product, we also had confirmed orders to work on, which greatly boosted our confidence.
Now, Rotimatic is available in 40 countries worldwide, with growing interest globally. But the journey doesn’t stop here. Eventually, we hope to develop a line of products with smart kitchen technology that will make up the kitchen of the future, enabling all our customers to eat well.
The past eight years weren’t easy, but I have always been a fighter. When I first started out as an engineer, I had trouble being taken seriously in a male-dominated field. Even when I started the business, I had to constantly prove myself to my staff and suppliers that I was capable of doing the right things.
If you are a female entrepreneur looking to find your footing in the world today, it is not going to be easy. But I’ve learned that hard work and perseverance will always pay off, and you are more than capable of realising your dreams, no matter how long it takes. So remember, believe in yourself!