Out of the lunch box
They might be common products that you might not spare a second thought for. But these everyday products require good engineering, believes Vashist Vasanthakumar, CEO and founder of Vaya Life Private, the Chennai-based company behind the new tiffin box that is capturing everyone’s fancy — Vaya Tyffyn. In sleek graphite, silver, gold, denim, cheetah and woollen variants, Vaya Tyffyn is a fresh new take on how we view lunch boxes.
Remember the three-tiered steel tiffin carriers most of us carried back in school? By the time we got to college, they were ignored in favour of college canteens. And by the time we started working, a cumbersome lunch box was the last thing we wanted to carry. “There have always been problems with lunch boxes: leakage, cumbersome designs, inadequate heat retention etc. The idea was to make the lunch box aspirational. Hence, the extensive design and technology behind Vaya,” says Vasanthakumar, who spent 10 years working with Apple in the US, before coming back to India to set up Vaya.
“At Apple, I worked to develop the business aspect of design and engineering, and worked closely with the two teams. That’s why personal merchandise excites me. After having spent 16 years in the US, I was ready to come back home and set up something of my own. There is so much talent here, but it is largely under utilised. In my opinion, to scale up a business faster here, one needs to work with the talent and groom them. Also, my family is here in Chennai. It was all the more reason to come back,” he says.
Once back, Vasanthakumar set about assessing the sector he’d want to venture into. “I realised that lunch boxes hadn’t been innovated in decades. We decided to reinvent them and came up with several prototypes. We wanted to make them a stylish accessory, while addressing issues such as functionality and heat retention. Design and engineering played large roles in coming up with Vaya. We set up the company in August 2016, and by November the same year, we’d begun to ship the product. By April this year, we added more variants and we now introduce a new variant every two weeks,” he explains.
Spoilt for choice
Their latest variant, launched last week, was the Denim patterned lunch box. Before that it was the limited edition Gold Vaya that saw sales rocket. Next on the cards is a slew of of kids’ specific designs. The lunch boxes, which come in 600 ml (two containers) and 1000 ml (three containers) variants are priced in the range of ₹1,890 to ₹3,800. While this seems pricey for a lunch box, Vasanthakumar says a lot of engineering goes into the product. “The lids are made of silicone to leak proof the boxes; the insulation ensures the food is maintained at around 45 degrees Celsius for at least six hours; the containers are copper finished,” he says.
Vaya is currently available on Amazon, on their own website, and at some retail stores across Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai. Plans are afoot to expand their retail presence to the North soon. The company already ships to several international locations such as US, Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia, with the latter being their biggest market outside of India. “In fact, in the US, people are already putting it to different uses. They take out the containers and use the shell to keep their sandwiches fresh or beverage cool.”
The company has three patents and trademarks and Vasanthakumar insists that it is impossible to replicate the product. “The amount of engineering that’s gone into it makes it impossible to replicate. People here usually associate engineering with software, but Vaya involves mechanical and material engineering. And like I said, everyday products do require good engineering,” he says.
An experience to remember
- According to Vashist Vasanthakumar, Vaya Life aims to provide users a complete experience. “We have a full fledged customer care team to address any concerns our users might have.”
- Vaya also has video tutorials on how to use their Tyffyn and achieve the maximum out of it on www.vaya.in