The hum of quiet conversation at Chennai’s Evochef office is routinely punctuated by the steamy hiss and crackle of freshly printed dosas. The start-up’s unique, and patented, dosa printer rolls out eight uniform dosas in quick succession, then a staffer refills its 700 ml cartridge with freshly-ground batter with practised ease.
VML Senthilnathan, founder Evochef and creator of what is being called the world’s first portable dosa printer, watches the gadget with an almost paternal fondness. The cartridge moves to coat the machine’s hot roller with batter, which is then pushed out onto a portable tray as a crisp rectangle.
In between, Senthilnathan darts in to dab the machine’s gleaming exterior with tissue to remove a drop of batter. Reticent and media shy, he’s the most comfortable when he’s problem solving. Which is why he was nonplussed to find himself in the centre of a recent social media storm when a video of his dosa printer went viral, garnering equal amounts of curiosity and criticism.
“I worked in R&D with Butterfly for more than 15 years, and my expertise has been in kitchen appliances,” says Senthilnathan, explaining that he created and patented the smart dosa maker based on practical experience. His family founded and owned Butterfly, a household name for small domestic appliances from grinders to stoves, which was acquired by Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals in February 2022.
Meanwhile, Senthilnathan spent the last three years setting up Evochef, a smart kitchen automation company. “We wanted to make meals easier for people,” says Senthilnathan, explaining how the compact machine, which only needs a plug point, can be operated anywhere, making it useful for small kitchens and offices.
Much of the online chatter revolves around the price point, ₹15,999, perceived to be high for a product that requires you to provide the batter, not to mention the accompanying chutney and sambar. “But batter is available everywhere now. And you can order the chutney and sambar on an app,” he says. “The problem is the cook having to stand at a stove for half an hour making dosas. With this, you just press a few buttons.”
The smart dosa maker has been undergoing closed door testing with family and friends for two years. About 300 have been sold in India and 500 shipped abroad, but it was to be officially unveiled to the public next week, as per their original schedule.
“I expected it to slowly get noticed in the market. Then suddenly it was on Twitter,” says Senthilnathan, adding with a laugh, “There may have been criticism, but that doesn’t reflect in the sales. We have not been able to handle the number of calls and e mails... About 1.24 crore people learnt about the product in a week.” As a result, they’ve pivoted and started demos at the office — providing a steady supply of dosas for the staff.
“Customers tell us they have made all kinds of dosas with this: rava, ragi, bajra... even pancakes,” says Senthilnathan, adding “As long as a batter can flow, it can be used.” As he speaks, a colleague presses the buttons, setting the thickness and time, and another dosa begins to cook. He carefully drizzles oil over the roller, to get it crisp. It rolls out in a neat rectangle in a minute, uniformly browned and crunchy in the sections where the oil sizzled. It tastes like a healthy, home made dosa.
“Though oil is not required, it can be added,” explains Senthilnatan, adding that this has led to all kinds of innovation by customers, from adding mayonnaise to chocolate sauce on top. “Some of them also grate cheese over the dosa as it cooks, so it melts.”
In response to the enthusiasm from Non Resident Indians, Evochef now has dedicated partners to sell and provide after sales service in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. With enquiries coming in from hotel chains, the team is now planning different versions for commercial use, like buffets. And although Senthilnathan is cautious about discussing his future plans, he does state that they have other gadgets in the pipeline, all targeted at kitchen automation, hinting at a competitively priced roti maker in the works.
Meanwhile, his factory in Chennai’s Thiruporur, where the dosa printer is made, is slowly ramping up production. The team there is, of course, powered by dosas. “It has been one of the best testing grounds,” smiles Senthilnathan. “So far we have done about 50 to 60,000 prints from each dosa maker there.”