Give idlis a nautical twist

Anantha Narayan and Joseph Babin with a prototype of the shell idli plate. Photo: Shaju John; Location Courtesy: Coco Jaunt  

They’re a breakfast staple in this part of the world. But to me, idlis are rather boring and tasteless. Unless, of course, there’s spicy tomato chutney or aromatic sambar accompanying the dish. Yet, when food blogger and stylist, Sanjeeta K.K. dishes out a plate of idlis for me, I’m eager to try them. Because they’re so pretty and shell-shaped. With varieties like beetroot idli with zingy chillies, masala idli with crunchy oats and broccoli, tutti frutti idli made with cake batter, and the good old regular white idli, they are all shaped like scallop shells, thanks to a patented shell-shaped idli plate by Anantha Narayan and Joseph Babin of Wannawill Inventorium.

“We both still hold our regular jobs and are what we like to call hobbyist inventors or weekend warriors,” laughs Anantha. He is an ad man while Joseph is an art director, but they believed that this is the way to change the world: one patent at a time. Wannawill was set up in 2015 and the two got their first patent for the shell idli plate in November 2015. Despite a few hiccups, like the Chennai floods and production issues, they managed to have a prototype ready in July this year.

“We worked with three different vendors to come up with the prototype, because we didn’t want anybody to know what it was that we were creating. So, each person was working on a different part of the prototype,” says Anantha.

He adds that they decided to work on the traditional idli plate for their first product, because nothing much had been done in terms of innovation with the dish in at least a thousand years.

“Also, we want to create products that are in every household. We found texture gives soul to food, and since idlis are traditionally white, we chose the scallop shell shape; the two go very well together. And the way I look at it, it is a canvas for creativity. When we tied up with Sanjeeta, she had a wide variety to offer — vegetable idlis, jam idlis, carrot idlis etc,” he explains.

According to Sanjeeta, the grooves in the idli plate are great to hold sauces and fillings that you’d like to add to a regular idli.

“Now, we’re in talks with manufacturers to get the product out in the market, while keeping the patent in mind,” Anantha says.

Ever since Anantha and Joseph showcased the prototype, they have been flooded with calls from people requesting them to create patented products for them. “For instance, a seafood restaurant in the city got in touch with us to manufacture the plates for them. In fact, within three days of putting up a video on the shell idli plate on our social networking platform, we got over 5,000 views,” he says.

The duo is currently working on patents for different products that fall under the apparel, food and organic farming categories. “Work is still on and it will take some time for these products to see the light of day,” says Anantha, adding that most of their invention work takes place over the weekends.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 6:01:55 PM |

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