Sosaley Technologies has started working on introducing smartness to kitchen appliances. IoT based kitchen appliances are still a novelty, even outside India, and are restricted to the most expensive of the range.
Last month when I was with my son in Dubai, he had just ordered a German machine, Thermomix, that cooks, grinds, emulsifies, whips, steams, mixes, stirs, blends, chops, kneads, heats, and weighs. Whew! – a total of 12 functions! It comes with an instruction book that is some 300-400 pages. It has some 41,000 recipes and instructions on how to prepare all the recipes using the machine. The machine can literally do everything excepting feed you! From Wine to Martini to a Chicken curry, it can cook up anything.
My six-year-old granddaughter loved the machine and became an expert in just a few days. That is the USP of the machine and the smartness of its designers. Simplicity, ease of use, and a trigger mechanism that makes you want to try out the recipes. I remember in the first few days of the product’s arrival, mother and daughter would excitedly decide what they were going to cook the next day, and what they should buy.
Since it is a European product, it has been printed in multiple languages. More important, in spite of the mind-boggling number of recipes, the western culture is more amenable to standards in everything including food and food tastes. That is why companies such as Pizza Hut are so successful. Once a recipe is finalized, it is replicated precisely by every outlet and works across the world.
Indian taste buds are more complicated. If you take a train ride, the very nature of the food available would change with every station. More important is the taste of the food, the composition of the ingredients – all would change. Even large quantities of food are prepared more by instinct and experience than by predefined and carefully measured ingredients. If you get into the kitchen in a marriage hall, you will be stunned by the chaotic activity there. The end result – the food taste – depends on who the cook is, and better cooks charge a premium for their service.
In addition, I have been fascinated by another aspect of Indian food. Something as simple as a dal (Indian lentil dish) tastes different when cooked in Delhi, and when cooked in Chennai, even when you replicate the ingredients and the cooking methodology. Why does this happen? Water, atmosphere? Does where the onions are grown make a difference?
Given this scenario, and the fact that we have 22 officially different languages, how do you make a housewife understand what needs to be done? The success of the introduction of electronics, controls and communication into the kitchen will happen only when at least 50% of the households speaking those 22 different languages are happy with what they get and use it on a regular basis. And therein lie multiple challenges – challenges of languages, understanding, and the simple difference in tastes and ways of cooking.
How do we make the instruction simple? Can we completely avoid using any language and use simple images that enunciate the instructions well? I am reminded of Exlibris, Edifis’s faithful scribe in Asterix and Cleopatra. Should we use a scribe or an artist? Given today’s social media, one small line out of place could very well kill you!! When Asterix asks Edifis why he is so worried about being a good meal for the crocodiles, he answers, ‘But they are sacred crocodiles! You just can’t feed them any old thing’!
Looking at this, electronics and technology seem simple. What we need to do is to hire a whole lot of linguists, psychologists, cooks, and nutritional experts to guide us in ensuring that the products we create are well understood and used successfully. Roadshows and training sessions would become critical as would the use of TV and other media.
How many pressure cooker whistles to cook 1/2 kilo of rice, anyone? I am sure Obelix would have tapped his head and said, ‘these Indians are crazy!!’