The year was 1998.
Sanandan (Sandy) Sudhir had landed his first job at GE Healthcare in Bengaluru as a designer. A bachelor at that time, he was living in a single-room apartment and immersed himself in work. But he preferred home-cooked food, so he bought a microwave oven to make some quick meals for himself.
“As I had long working days, I thought cooking in a microwave oven would save me time and space. I didn’t want to set up an entire kitchen. I tried using the oven to cook for around six months, but it was very time-consuming,” tells Sanandan to The Better India.
Realising that this was not sustainable in the long run, the designer was forced to set up a small kitchen. However, he wasn’t happy with the quality of the food when he used the stove.
“I felt that the quality of the food deteriorated when cooked on the stove. The vegetables got overcooked, and moreover, there was a need to add water to cook them. So they lost volume too. But a microwave oven retained the colour, texture, volume, and most importantly, the nutrients of vegetables,” says the designer.
Therefore, he started using both the microwave oven as well as the stove to cook.
This way, he was able to marry the crunch of the microwave-cooked vegetables with the flavour and caramelisation from the stove. It was the best of both worlds.
He then started looking for a product that combined the uses of both microwave and stove/induction. “To my surprise, there was no such product. I even looked at patents across the world, but was unable to find anything,” says Sananadan.
This discovery led him to innovate ‘On2Cook’, which 51-year-old Sanandan says combines flames, induction, and microwaves.
He says, “On2Cook works on the combination-cooking technology with induction or flame acting on the food from outside and microwaves from inside. The product can save 70 per cent time and 50 per cent energy. The cooked food retains water-soluble nutrients while preserving colour, texture and consistency. After being granted patents across India, US and UK, our invention stands to create a new product category in the kitchen space.”
Since the early 2000s, Sanandan knew that he wanted to develop a product that would combine the cooking technology of microwaves with induction or flame.
And now, almost two decades later, his startup — On2Cook India Pvt Ltd — has secured seed funding of Rs 17 crore at a Rs 100 crore valuation. The funding round was led by angel investor Dr Mayur Desai, who infused the first tranche of Rs 16 crore for 16 per cent equity. Investor Nirbhay Gandhi invested Rs 1 crore for 1 per cent equity.
The path to this, however, was far from smooth.
Securing a patent for the technology
There were issues in prototype development, a lack of belief by others, and a lack of finances. But such was Sanandan’s belief that he refused to let go of his dream, and invested almost Rs 4.5 crore of his own money in the past 10 years towards the development of On2Cook.
“I first requested the folks at GE Appliances to think about developing such a product. I pushed them for almost six months, but to no avail. I then quit GE in 2007 and joined an American startup that works on creative product design and helps clients to develop their products by making them market-ready. I thought that my idea would also get developed. However, I didn’t get the time needed to work on my product,” says Sanandan.
He quit this company too and went to IIM-Ahmedabad in their incubators programme.
“At that time, Flipkart, Ola, Uber, and Amazon were doing very well. I had a mentor who encouraged me to develop an application for food. I was there for six months but my heart wasn’t into it. So I launched my own company called Invent India in 2011. We helped others develop their products from concept to production,” says the entrepreneur.
His idea was to learn the nuances of product development so that he could apply the same to his dream project.
While working on other’s products, he applied for a US patent for his On2Cook product sometime in 2010-11. And the turning point in his life came in 2016 when he received the first US patent for his creation.
“After years of dreaming, the patent really vindicated my belief. So many people discouraged me saying that such a product would not work. But this patent showed me that we had something good at hand,” says Sanandan.
Final product after 14 prototypes
“How ‘On2Cook’ works is that there is an induction/flame in the bottom and microwave through the lid. So while your masalas will cook in the bottom, you can add the vegetables/chicken on top, which will get cooked through the lid. This reduces your time and gives the best of both worlds,” says Sanandan.
He says that one can cook rice or chicken in seven minutes, bake a cake in four minutes, and a pizza in four minutes.
On2Cook will start manufacturing the product soon and sales are expected to start in 2023. However, Sanandan says that developing a prototype is very challenging in India.
“I’ve put every penny of my savings and time into this. This is the 14th generation prototype of the product. I have worked for over 10 years on this product. The Indian ecosystem is not very conducive to prototyping and product development. Established companies are not willing to let us develop prototypes on their machines. Therefore, we have to send our designs to China, Malaysia, or Thailand to get the parts made,” says the entrepreneur.
He says, “After getting the parts from abroad, which takes 20-25 days, we do the assembly in India. This really delays the process. Furthermore, if we need to order more parts, we have to wait another month for the same. It costs extra to get the parts made in other countries. COVID added to our woes, as shipments were stuck for three months.”
Sanandan’s conviction finally paid off.
Investor Shaival Desai from the Desai Family Office says, “There hasn’t been a technological shift in the cooking appliances space in the post-industrial world for decades. On2Cook brings cooking into the 21st century. We are happy to join forces with Sanandan in his attempt to usher in a landmark transition in an industry, and even in the lifestyle of everyone.”
Currently, Sanandan is at the Hospitality and Food Service Event — GulfHost 2022 — at World Trade Centre, Dubai. He says that they have secured several orders for the product already.
Edited by Pranita Bhat
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