By Rejin Narayanan, IEEE Member and CEO, Ingen Robotics
Consumer Robots are robots which an average citizen can make use of in his daily life. They do not look like humans, or even industrial manipulators. But they make daily lives easy and better, and make little decisions on their own as they go about their chores. As in the case of vacuum cleaning robots, which make a map of the room and clean the floor surface diligently, avoiding furniture, and automatically returning to their charging stations once they are done.
India is country with a rich culture, including food culture. And as the Indian economy grows, the growing young population wants better comforts and still wants to enjoy their traditional food and life habits. This makes India an ideal market for consumer robotics, especially in the food processing segment.
An average Indian has three meals a day, and the cuisine is time consuming. This is especially true in the case of dinner, when the whole family has an opportunity to eat together in peace, but generally the working adults who cook dinner are tired. The challenge from an innovation and engineering perspective is in meeting the tough user requirements and price expectations.
Educational robot is another category which holds much potential in the Indian market. Indian parents are willing to go an extra mile to give a better education to their children. There are many startups working on educational robots that help learn STEM subjects through hands on experiments. Learning through robotics is very engaging for the child, and results are very visible.
Household cleaning presents another opportunity. Though robotic vacuum cleaners are available in the Indian market, adoption has been slow due to high price. Indians prefer to vacuum clean and wet mop the floor. Due to environmental conditions a typical Indian home is different from homes in western countries. A robotic vacuum cleaner developed for Indian conditions and sold by an Indian household brand at an affordable price could be a game changer.
Among these, cooking robots have the highest potential in my opinion. There are a host of startups working on cooking robots. In the next few years the consumer robotics market in India will see a flurry of new product launches, and a few acquisitions by major players. On top of the list will be products that make rotis and dosas – food that people prefer to eat hot and fresh, and are time consuming to prepare.
The modern Indian homemaker is short of time to prepare a good and healthy meal, but prefers not to choose frozen, packaged food. Consumer robotics startups in India are attempting to address this gap and create a new product category which has the potential to become as commonplace as the kitchen mixer and find a place in every Indian home.