India, basically an agrarian economy has made great strides in various fields and especially in the field of robotics. The robots have gradually entered into sectors such as defence services, agriculture, manufacturing industries and so on.
The petite man-like machines have therefore created career opportunities for many entrepreneurs in the food industry too. Do we need any extra talents to make a mark in this field?
“Not exactly, if you have the expertise and the interest to excel in your business and attract customers, success is yours,” say the duo Karthik Kannan and Venkatesh Rajendran, who took Chennai by storm with their robot-theme based restaurant, a few months back.
Launched early this year, this restaurant located on the Old Mahabalipuram Road is a crowd puller. Despite a spacious waiting lounge, on the ground floor, one can see serpentine queues to grab a table in the restaurant.
What is attractive about this theme? Robots, of course, says Karthik. People are curious about how they work here. he says as he leads us to the dining space on the first floor. Soon as you step out of the lift, you are caught unaware by a robot extending its tray to you. Unable to hold back a guffaw, Karthik points out that it is just a selfie corner and there is more suspense waiting for you inside.
Heading straight to the glass door before you, he takes you inside a dimly-lit restaurant. As your eyes get used to the darkness, the scene that unfolds looks straight out of a science fiction – a line of tall robots, with bright red eyes, turning around on their wheels.
Of the four robot waiters or servers, two are clad in a saree to suit the Indian style. Children vie with adults to reach out to the food on trays carried by the robots named Gia, Sana, Alice and Atika.
So, how do the robots locate the tables? Founders Venkatesh and Karthik have introduced a unique order system with phone tabs. The tablets display all categories of food available – Thai, Chinese et al. Once the order is placed by the customers, it is sent directly to the kitchen. When the ordered dishes are ready, restaurant staff arrange it on a tray carried by a battery-operated robot which promptly delivers it to the respective table.
Venkatesh Rajendran and Karthik Kannan
On reaching the table, it alerts the guests to take the food from the tray and tap its hand after they are done with the task. It then proceeds to the kitchen on a fixed track around the tables.
If children, out of curiosity, go near the robots carrying the orders and block its way, alerted by sensors fixed inside them, they stop immediately. As one can get a seat only through booking, there is no jostling inside the hall to walk alongside or touch the moving machines.
In addition to the robots, the restaurant has also employed waiters to enable customers to adapt themselves to the new concept.
Why this concept? “The concept of ‘Theme-restaurant’ is taking Chennai by storm now. I am an architect (specializes in interiors) and my friend Venkatesh, a former IT employee, is currently in the food industry. Both of us wanted to combine our expertise and introduce a new concept in the city. Also, during my visits to China, I noticed that robots were a big hit in restaurants. Thus was born this concept,” explained Karthik.
How did it begin?
Karthik who imports building materials from China has his office there. Two years ago, when the concept of theme restaurants was catching up in Chennai, he took up the task of doing interiors for 747 Flight Theme restaurant. Here, he designed the dining space similar to the interior of an aircraft to give aeronautic experience to the guests. It was then Karthik met Venkatesh and they conceptualized theme Robot. It was a leap of faith for both of them and they plunged into business. While Karthik handled the interiors, imports and robot repairs, Venkatesh handled the business operations.
But the effort was fraught with challenges. The duo had to study the working of the robots (each costing Rs. 4 lakhs), obtain training in installing and servicing them. Off, they flew to China to understand all these concepts and avoid being bogged down by emergencies.
“I took up a 15-day training to solve any issue related to the running of the machines. Actually, it is easier to handle them. They are like any other electrical gadgets. You just have to charge them once in 24 hours and take care of their wheels if needed. They will not throw up an emergency and if there is one, I can handle it,” says Karthik confidently.
But, what really shook them was routing the robots to India. Little did they realize that they will face a hurdle with the customs department. “As this concept was new to India, the Customs Department did not have a unique code assigned to the product (assembled robots). We, therefore, had to pump in a lot of details about parts of the bots, convince them and use special permission. The entire operations took us 2-3 months as officials of many central departments had to be approached,” explained Karthik.
We are glad, we did it, despite odds. Today, the concept is a success and they cater to customers from down south and far from north India too. Some of the dishes their guests come looking for is ‘Wow Paneer’ and dumplings (vegetarian) and Mayonnaise chicken (non-vegetarian). But both look forward to their and myriad varieties of home-made kulfis.
What are their plans for the future? Two months ago, Karthik and Venkatesh launched the themed Robot restaurant in Coimbatore (another major city in south India). They have plans of introducing the concept in all the states in the country. “We will source the bots from China and sell it across the country. Anybody with normal intelligence and sound knowledge of handling electrical goods will be able to manage the robots and do not need any special training session,” said the duo.
They further explain that they are willing to share the expertise with interested cafeterias, pizza outlets and in the hospital sector. They are open for franchises as well. Currently, they are authorized sole distributors of these robots for the Indian Market.
The robots are only an additional attraction and have not replaced the restaurant staff. But will they eventually do away with the human resource? What do you think?
Photo Credits: The Author
Early on a Sunday morning, I was driving my twelve-year-old to his karate class. Along the way, we chatted while both struggling to wake up. We have done this drive together many times, and I was mentally on auto-pilot.
As I pulled into the parking lot, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, can you not come in with me?”
In about a second’s time, his life flashed before my eyes. I felt a flood of emotions that could evoke tears if focused on, but instead, I asked in a nonchalant manner, “Why are you asking?”
He explained how none of the other students have parents in there, and he was right. My son recently graduated to an adult class. The vast majority of students he now trains with are either teenagers who drive or adults. There are rarely parents sitting on the sidelines. After six years of walking into the dojo at his side, I admit that it was a blow to have my motherly wings clipped. On the other hand, I was proud of him for feeling a level of confidence and ownership to go the distance on his own.
So I simply said, “Sure. I can read my book in the car.” and watched him grab his bag and head in.
This is one of many stories that I could tell about living in a season of letting go. I am forty-two years old, solidly positioned in midlife. I am past the everybody getting careers/getting married/having babies phase and into the everyone is getting divorced/heaving health issues/dealing with ailing parents phase. I, myself, had a hysterectomy this past winter. Talk about letting go! I wasn’t going to have more children anyway, but it definitely put a fine point on the midlife timeline. And the truth is that procedure was the easiest problem I have encountered this year. Each month has brought more challenges with greater stakes.
There is a point in midlife where you come to realize that while there will be an ebb and flow to things, there is no ‘off’ switch to the deep and complex situations you will find yourself navigating from here on out.
You are the fulcrum between multiple generations, trying to support all sides while simultaneously processing your own stuff.
But the world is not a perpetually sad and gloomy place at midlife. Quite the opposite is true. Because through this somewhat stormy transition phase of life, you can see the lights that do shine that much more clearly. This will make me sound ancient, but I understand why grandparents go bananas over birth or get overly excited about a wedding. I can see how sitting at a graduation or following someone’s career can bring such joy. It’s intentional celebration of all that is still bright and brilliant in the world to balance out the darker clouds.
It’s being able to make room for new moments while having to let go of old ones.
It’s being able to remember while continuing to look forward.
Every birthday, every anniversary, and every new milestone is meaningful. I take the time to relish them more fully now. While this season has brought some of the hardest moments, it has also brought some of the absolute best moments of my life.
As my son and I drove home from karate, I let him pick the music, which right now is always jazz. After a year in the middle school jazz band with a favorite teacher, my son can’t get enough of it. As someone who has spent years listening to Disney soundtracks and Raffi in the car, I don’t have enough words to express my euphoria of hearing “The Atomic Mr. Basie” on repeat. We talked about the songs, and he shared his thoughts on the solos. He has developed such a good ear for music and fills our house with his own playing.
The more he grows, the more I am grateful for the contributions he makes in our family.
I love who he is becoming, just as much as I love who he once was. It was a perfect drive home.
Tell me, what has this season brought newly into your life?
It seems that there is no place on earth that is immune to bigotry. Not even Canada, which has been regarded by many as one of the world’s last bastions of sanity. After a campaign that was eerily similar to the Trump-vs-Hillary battle, Ontario elected as its Premier a man who is eerily similar to Trump.
Since this provincial government took office about a month ago, the following has happened:
* The cap-and-trade program, meant to benefit the environment and combat climate change, has been scrapped.
*$100M dollars that had been budgeted for school repairs has been taken away. The school repair backlog in Ontario currently sits at about $15B.
* A basic income pilot program, which was enabling low-income people to do things like put a roof over their head and food on their table, has been canceled.
* Prescription drug coverage for people under the age of 21 has been removed.
* A budgeted increase in funding for people with disabilities has been cut in half.
* Money that had been slated for mental health supports has been taken away.
* With spectacular disregard for democracy, the Premier has decided to slash the size of Toronto City Council in the middle of a municipal election campaign.
* An updated health and physical education curriculum has been repealed. The sex ed component of this curriculum was teaching kids about consent, bodily autonomy, online and physical safety, and respect for members of the LGBT community.
The education system is in for a rough few years. A lot is going to change in the school boards. Funding is going to be taken away or redistributed. Curriculums are going to be replaced with older, outdated versions that are not relevant to today’s world. Teaching conditions are going to become more challenging, and students are going to emerge from high school without all of the tools they need to cope with the big bad world.
The time for me to sit back and complain about the government is over. I have decided that I need to be proactive in advocating for kids – not only my own kids, but all of the kids in my community. And so I have thrown my name into the hat for the role of school board trustee. If I am elected, I will be throwing all of my energy into ensuring that during this political upheaval in our province, the voices of the kids are not drowned out. I will do whatever it takes to ensure the wellbeing of students in my neighbourhood. I will join committees, go to meetings, propose new policies and defend our kids against attacks on their education.
Of course, I first have to convince voters that I am a better person for the job than the eight people I’m running against. Knocking on doors and talking to complete strangers is not my idea of a fun time. But if it gets me into a position where I can make a difference, it’ll be worth it.
Have you ever run for an elected office? What is the education system like where you are?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada. To follow Kirsten on the campaign trail, visit www.votekirstendoyle.ca, or follow her on Twitter @kirstendoyle_to, or Instagram @votekirstendoyle.
Photo credit: Peter Gabany
Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.
Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.
In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.
This month, Kurandza has launched their second #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 200 girls to school in Mozambique.
What is the campaign?
In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 200 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.
For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.
This is my second year signing on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.
Why girls education?
I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.