It Was A Simple Thought That Grew, Says Kirty Datar About CANEBOT!

Kirty Datar, alongside her husband Milind, left their cushy jobs for their passion to build CANEBOT, and it's an inspiring journey!

In 2012 a couple, Kirty Datar and Milind Datar who worked in the IT sector, decided to change their profession and be involved in some very different work, deciding to decided to get into the food manufacturing business using sugarcane.

But why sugarcane?

A journey that started with a simple thought

When I was researching Kirty Datar and her company CANEBOT, I was intrigued by the name- but, most importantly, I was captivated by the idea of making a brand out of sugarcane.

Kirty Datar
Kirty and Milind Datar

So, naturally, I was eager to ask her the most anticipated question- why sugarcane? To this, a smiling Kirty said:

“It was a simple thought. If someone could take a cup of coffee and make CCD or Starbucks out of it, why not sugarcane juice? Sugarcane juice is a beverage that people – especially in India – like. It is healthy, tasty, and is a part of our culture. Unfortunately, nobody has organised it, and people have disconnected from it as they consider it a roadside drink.”

SugarCANE and roBOT make CANEBOT!

While the idea of making a brand out of sugarcane was clear to me, the name was still a little hazy until Kirty told me its significance!

Basically, CANEBOT is a combination of sugarcane and robot. Hailing from IT backgrounds- Kirty and Milind wanted to blur the lines between food manufacturing and technology. Thus, they came up with CANEBOT- the self-serving robot!

Let us expand on this idea- CANEBOT is primarily a vending machine of sorts which serves fresh and healthy sugarcane juice! While talking about the idea, Kirty mentioned:

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“During COVID, we did a pivot, wherein we redefined the sugarcane juice serving system. We are currently designing a bot- a robot. This robot is a vending machine that will serve sugarcane juice. If you visualise it, it’ll look similar to an ATM machine where you go, press the button, order, pay, and a self-operated kiosk (self-service machine) will serve you fresh, newly extracted sugarcane juice.”

The shift from a cushy job was scary…!

Starting something new is scary. But it is a different level of a scare when you are unaware of what you are doing. For Kirty, leaving her cushy job and venturing into a new business seemed scary, but it was important. 

One major change that this shift of authority brought upon them was the shift from working for one department to handling everything- even the revenue and expenditure. 

Talking about the shift from a cushy job to a cut-throat industry of business, Kirty explained:

“One week back, I was sitting in an air-conditioned office, drinking mineral water- and a week later, I am visiting various farms, talking to farmers and labourers, trying to tell them what kind of quality sugarcane we want.”

Adding to that, she wondered:

“I am sure they were wondering what is wrong with these people that they are suddenly interested in sugarcane and saying they want sugarcane.”

COVID-19 hit the startup, but the Datars persevered, in a different way

When COVID hit, everything stopped. For Kirty and Milind, their business dipped. But, they didn’t lose hope- they thought: so what if we can’t get? It shouldn’t stop us from giving to others!

During COVID-19, the couple started giving out sugarcane juice to the migrant workers. In total, the couple donated 60 lakh rupees to Donate Me Pune. 

Soon, they started getting orders from the police- now in abundance, with a COVID pass, Kirty and Milind could get out of the house! Soon, they prepared ginger turmeric covid shots similar to kaadha, but made primarily of sugarcane. These packaged drinks were a hit back then, and they continue to be a favourite among people even now.

Kirty Datar
Kirty Datar

While talking about how COVID-19 changed the course of their business, Kirty Datar says, “As an entrepreneur, whether we are earning money or not is a different thing- but that whole emotion of serving; if that’s kept alive, then automatically the roads open up.”

She adds, “The only thing that changed for us was that earlier we were serving sugarcane juice, and we were getting paid for that, but now during COVID, we thought- just because we’re not getting paid, it doesn’t mean we have to stop serving.”

COVID-19 didn’t stop Kirty and her journey towards CANEBOT- it only made the dream even more achievable. 

Kirty Datar on working with her husband

As we progressed with the interview, I asked Kirty about her take on working with her husband, Milind. On that, she said:

“If you can manage it, it is a beautiful thing- otherwise, it’s one of the most difficult things.”

Further, Kirty explained it with a beautiful yet, simple analogy about how working together with spouses is similar to raising a baby. You have a difference in opinion, but at the end of the day, you’re working on something together, which is important. 

Shark Tank was an enriching experience

Remembering the time they featured their company CANEBOT on Shark Tank India, Kirty gave a perfect entrepreneurial answer. She says, “You either win, or you learn. There’s no third way. And as long as you’re doing either of these things, you’re winning in life.”

Shark Tank India was an enriching experience for the couple as they learned something, taught something- but came with a bag full of feedback and entrepreneurial advice.

Lastly, as we wrapped up the interview, I came to realise that Milind and Kirty Datar’s CANEBOT has opened a gamut of opportunities in this technology as well as in the food manufacturing sector.

Kirty is full of sunshine, and holds the kind of aura you want yourself to hold on to and/or surround yourself with!

Talking to her was great experience; her business mind and work ethic are inspiring, not only to me but to others too!

Image credits: Kirty Datar

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About the Author

Pranjali Hasotkar

I am a journalism student with a penchant for writing about women and social issues. I am an intersectional feminist and an aspiring journalist. I identify as she/her. read more...

38 Posts | 57,522 Views

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