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This is the seventh in our series SINGAPORE START-UP STORIES. Stay tuned for more insightful interviews with successful female entrepreneurs!

Pranoti Nagarkar Israni is proof that women can do anything once they put their mind to it. The co-founder and CTO of Zimplistic always dreamt of becoming an inventor and has acquired an expertise in mechanical engineering. She is also involved in product design and has authored eight patents in Zimplistic (a company she co-founded with her husband, Rishi).

The company recently launched Rotimatic, the world’s first robotic chapati maker. The customisable and simple-to-use machine makes healthy rotis and wraps within minutes. Zimplistic is a success story from start-up hotspot Block 71 in Ayer Rajah Crescent and has even caught the attention of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who mentioned them in his National Day Rally speech.

We speak to Pranoti and find out about her plans to simplify people’s lives.

singapore women entrepreneur startup Pranoti Nagarkar Israni Zimplistic rotimatic DECOR

What inspires you to come up with ideas for the products that you have worked on?
I have always been inspired to simplify everyday problems that affect many lives; to be an inventor. I first realised that I could really be an inventor in my third year at university, when I made an automatic iron for shirts. I realised that I could make an impact and change people’s lives. To learn the ropes and better understand the product development process from A to Z, I worked at a product design consultancy for two years. All the while, however, my husband, Rishi, and I would think of new ideas that needed to be worked on. Roti-making was at the top of that list.

Mechanical engineering isn’t a common field for women to go into, let alone Asian women – what made you get into it?
Growing-up in a family of four generations of engineers, I have always dreamt of becoming an inventor myself. From a young age, I was keen on getting my hands dirty to bring new ideas to life. But I have to admit that it is unusual for a woman to build a hardware product. People didn’t believe I was the Chief Technology Officer of Zimplistic and an engineering architect when we first started; they thought I was the sales or marketing person. So I rode a motorbike to meetings to signal that I was different. However, through my experience, I learned that what a woman brings to the table in terms of thoughts, ideas and experiences is very unique. We don’t have to let go of our feminine qualities. It’s more about attaining a fine balance between masculine and feminine qualities. The attitude of giving 100% to everything made it possible for me to NOT compromise one for another.

Tell us a bit about Rotimatic.
I’m very health-conscious, and as a newly-wed wife back in the day, I wanted to cook healthy meals for my family. As such, I would rush back home at the end of a long working day to cook my meals by scratch. Rotis are a staple in my diet, but also one of the hardest parts of the meal-preparation process. The idea of a one-click operation, smart machine that is easy and convenient to use was thus born, and that formed the vision for Rotimatic. It was also key to ensure that the entire process cooked a healthy product.

singapore women entrepreneur startup Pranoti Nagarkar Israni Zimplistic rotimatic ROTIMATIC

The response since we announced Rotimatic has been overwhelmingly positive. We have completed the shipment of our pre-orders in Singapore, and of the lot, many users have written to us sharing their experiences of how Rotimatic has changed their lives, enabling them to lead a healthier lifestyle. Many Rotimatic users also have said what we were hoping to achieve with Rotimatic – that it has taken-over the most time-consuming and challenging task of cooking, giving them more time for the things they love.

PM Lee is a big supporter, even mentioning Rotimatic in his National Day Rally speech – how do you feel about this as an entrepreneur and as a Singaporean?
We are really thankful for the ecosystem in Singapore that has helped us nurture and improve Rotimatic in the past eight years. We are humbled and honoured to be mentioned by PM Lee. Rotimatic started with a bold idea, a seemingly impossible mission. But Singapore’s own story and evolution as a nation has showed us that anything is possible. Singapore is a great country, world-class in many spheres. It is like a start- up as well, and I really appreciate its “let’s make it the best for the best” spirit.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
There were many obstacles in the process but the faith was always intact. Rotimatic is a first-of-its-kind smart machine. There was no benchmark in the industry, so all the learning was through trial and error. Every part was created from scratch – each of the 300 parts have been custom-made. We were very clear that Rotimatic had to be fully-automated and that the user should just have to pour in dry flour as the starting ingredient – not even have a capsule or anything partially-ready to start with. This smart machine had to be easy to operate. This makes the design process even more complex, where every faculty of engineering design to manufacturing is needed to come together. And as we were developing the product, it was also important to build our company in parallel. As leaders in the team, it was a challenge to figure out what we need to make the company efficient, what processes do we need to smoothen operations, what sort of people we need to bring into the team.

What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur in Singapore?
When we started in 2008, there were not many hardware start-ups. The eco-system was more geared towards software and mobile devices. Rotimatic has been a massive project in terms of the complexity in the design, variety of engineering systems, amount of suppliers, quality requirements, manufacturing details, processes, team, expertise, capital requirements etc. Making 100 units is one thing, but making them in 100,000s is a different task, one that requires very tightly controlled processes and checks and measures to ensure quality. Our biggest challenge was (and probably still is) finding the right people to build a team. This includes not just the engineering, operational, marketing aspects of a business, but also the partners, whether its investors or manufacturing suppliers.

What advice would you give to women in Singapore who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs?
Very simple – DREAM BIG! Women should focus more on self-esteem that comes from within rather than external validation. Prioritising your needs before anyone else might sound selfish, but that, in my honest experience, is crucial. If I am not in balance, I am not in my best state, so things around me or things I come in contact with will not be happening the way they should. Women, a lot of times, don’t know how to do this. I’ve discovered that practicing meditation is a great way to achieve this. Compassion is another power we have. We should not get bogged down by anything the professional world might make you do. There is a need for goodness in our actions. As an entrepreneur, we get an opportunity to touch and impact so many lives. Our product or company or service should be a vehicle of that.

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories about female entrepreneurs based in Singapore. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our stories about the HER WORLD WOMEN OF THE YEAR and YOUNG WOMEN ACHIEVERS, and discover this year’s winners: Meet your Her World Woman of the Year and Young Woman Achiever 2016!