Punjab-based English lecturer designs pan that allows discharge of steam and prevents milk from boiling over. Her company, SmartStuff, aims to give basic products a smart twist.
We live in a world driven by technology where everything is accessible with a click, but woefully little is done to combat small everyday problems. Anyone who has multi-tasked while boiling milk knows just what this is all about. Remember the mad dash you make across rooms to turn the gas off before milk boils over?
It was something that Chandrika Mital, an English lecturer with Punjab Government's Education Department, had faced once too often. One morning, she put the milk pan on the gas and went to wake up her children. When she returned to the kitchen she saw the milk boiling and ran to keep it from spilling over. But that happened anyway and she burnt herself in the process.
Chandrika couldn’t help but wonder that while there were several products in the market, there were few that catered to basic household needs.
The start of SmartStuff
Soon after, Chandrika decided to work on this particular problem with her husband, Sudhir Mital, a civil engineer with the Punjab Electricity Board.
They decided to start SmartStuff, a company that builds products that are basic and part of everyday use, but with a smart twist.
Their first product, Smart Pan, is a patent-pending design that allows the discharge of steam while preventing milk from boiling over. The product comprises two parts – the pan and the lid.
For the first prototype, Chandrika used a small plate from her kitchen. She took the plate to a local welder and got it cut according to a design she had in mind. It worked. Later, she got in touch with a stainless steel manufacturer in Delhi and got the pan made according to her specifications.
However, getting to the manufacturing stage was not easy. Very few manufacturers showed interest or trusted her idea. But Chandrika didn’t rest easy and kept pursuing it until she met a manufacturer who really liked her idea and agreed to manufacture the Smart Pan.
The product – priced at Rs 750 – has currently been listed on a crowdfunding platform and the team claims to have sold over 100 units in the past few weeks.
Building Smart household products
“We don’t have competitors in this space as no one is trying to solve such basic problems. Currently, the only product like this one is a milk boiler, a double-walled pan with a whistle on the side. The two major problems in that product are that firstly it does not let the milk boil completely and, secondly, it is quite impractical as the user has to put water through the double-walled vessel using a funnel,” Chandrika says.
The Mitals have enlisted the help of a few freelance experts to help them research on the product and develop it.
Currently bootstrapped, SmartStuff claims to have spent Rs 2.5 lakh from the founders’ personal funds on patenting the design.
“Since we want to make products that cater to peoples’ need we have listed the product on a crowdfunding platform to check the demand and raise the rest of the money required for manufacturing,” Chandrika says.
The team is in talks with distributors and hopes to launch the Smart Pan in stores across in Delhi for Rs 750 in the next three to four months.
The route of crowdfunding
While the global crowdfunding market has seen a decline of close to 17 percent, in India players like Ketto, Fuel a Dream, MeHelp and LightSpeed mobility help many like SmartStuff get funding for products, aid they wouldn’t get otherwise.
A DazeInfo report says crowdfunding in India in 2014 resulted in $16.2 billion, up from $6.1 billion in 2013. The growth doubled once again and reached $34.4 billion in 2015.
With SmartPan, SmartStuff now competes with brands like Milton, Hawkins and Prestige. But the team believes that they can change the way kitchenware utensils are used with products like the SmartPan. Who would say no to a smart idea like that?
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