You are a working mom and have an important board meeting. As you shuffle through your papers for a big presentation, you hear the horn of your son’s school bus. The waiting time is just 5 minutes. The Monday morning frenzy, Murphy’s Law and all that, will make the interval seem even less. There are two realistic options. Stuff some money into his pocket to buy something from the canteen. Or hurriedly fill his snack box with ready made junk food available at home like cookies or chocolates. Enter Rama Krishnan and his ‘OPOS’ magic. With his One Pot One Shot technique, there is a third option. Home cooked, wholesome and tasty food before that bus leaves. So the mother ‘in a spin’ can whip up her child’s favourite paneer paratha in 2 minutes and 54 seconds! And in the process, also win a cash prize from the OPOS Founder at one of his regular ‘Cookery Challenge’ contests put up on his facebook group that is racing towards a lakh members from across India and the world.
Whether it’s beating that morning school rush or meeting that ‘Bakasura’ like menu dictated by a chauvinistic hubby on a festival, the OPOS method has revolutionised cooking and empowered women (and hopefully more men too) The USP is cooking anything, I repeat, anything, in 5 minutes. Biriyani, Chicken Gravy, Malai Kofta, Pasta, Paneer Makhni, Mysorepa, ‘Thali-thons’, think of any dish and before your mouth waters, the whistle blows and it’s on your plate.
When did the apron beckon? Did cooking start as a necessity or a hobby? Ask Rama Krishnan and he will reveal that it was a necessity. “When I was stuck in Bahrain, I missed South Indian food. Eating out regularly was too much of a hassle. I got a bunch of books and tried cooking with bad results. It took me a while to realise that the problem was not with me but with the instructions. As an Engineer, I saw cooking as a simple production problem. I realised chefs did not see it that way. The instructions were unclear and imprecise. I wanted to develop a set of simple, basic recipes that anyone, anywhere, anytime can use with predictable results. That would occupy me for the next decade or so.”
This Mechanical Engineer from PSG Tech and MBA grad from XLRI, Jamshedpur first tried his hand in the garment export business, “then got all worked up with Sabeer Bhatia selling hotmail for millions”, realised that he was in the wrong industry and came to Chennai to understand what the dotcom was about. Spending nights at a friend’s company – Surf India, Rama Krishna picked up the nitty gritty of programming and created his own portals. Sold on the power of the net to bring everyone together on the same platform, he tried to get all students on one single virtual school. But “the net was viewed with suspicion. I couldn’t get schools to sign up. I went abroad and had better luck. Some revenues happened, but after the dotcom bubble burst, I shut shop, selling the company back to the angel investors.”
Wedded to cooking, where do you think this bachelor operates from? Let me guess. A sprawling state of the art kitchen with a back office manned by support staff, all furiously researching and hammering out recipes, sharing posts, collating information and working on marketing initiatives? Now take a deep breath. It’s a virtual One Man Army. Another deep breath. Rama Krishnan lives alone, works and entertains folks in a 71 sq. ft. studio with a full fledged kitchenette in 6 sq. ft! “It started as an experiment 15 years ago and I loved it so much that I still stay here. I guess the small space had a big impact in shaping OPOS.” A minimalist to the core, Rama Krishnan owns exactly 4 blue jeans and 4 black T Shirts. “I’m a believer in the ‘as you learn more, you need less’ school of thought. I consciously try to keep downsizing.”
Armed with a trademark for OPOS, Rama Krishnan has been on a mission to take his innovation to all stake holders. His Outreach Programmes are not limited to clichéd groups but to those who really need it. Like the Indian Army. “Soldiers serve in high altitudes. My presentation to them seemed like a life saver. Their faces lit up when they saw that anything they want can be cooked by anyone in 5 minutes.” Rama Krishnan yearns to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “He can implement OPOS across the country at a stroke if he is convinced.” Getting an appointment with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also high on his agenda. “I have spent a small fortune to come up with an OPOS Army Kit Design based on six demos covering key Army and Air Force bases across North East India.”
That’s not all. A marketing genius, Rama Krishnan has forged strategic tie-ups. “We got Butterfly to design the first OPOS pressure baker for us. It was a tough sell as we had to convince them that this is a completely different cooking technique. After the overwhelming success of the OPOS kits, new partnerships are now easier.”
The responses from the community on the social media have been more than one shot in the arm! There were sceptical reactions. Like “looks like alien sh*t” from a Bengali on seeing the intense jade green of cooked snake gourd to “I realise that I have to unlearn everything learnt in the past 70 years and start afresh” from renowned ‘internet maami’ Chitra Viswanathan. “Kids cooking up full thalis and emulating me, with OPOS shaved into their scalps and the OPOS logo painted on their hands and thinking cooking is cool” has been a welcome breakthrough. There have been instances of children being unwell but still craving for a bowl of OPOS cooked veggies! Rama Krishnan has also been a turnaround agent for a hotel in Colombo that was about to shut shop due to mounting losses but saw a revival in its fortunes after the owners were introduced to OPOS.
For a man soaked in recipe after recipe with every new post on his ever burgeoning facebook timeline, what is his favourite OPOS dish or surprise experiment? “No water Biriyani. It took a decade to crack. The biggest realisation is that taste need not be created and is inherent in food. It can be unlocked by cooking most food in its own juices, at the highest possible heat, for the lowest possible time. Recipes and cuisines don’t matter.”
What’s amazing is Rama Krishnan’s altruistic streak and his willingness to share his knowledge. “I believe OPOS is the future of cooking. The plan is simple: take OPOS to every kitchen on earth. The ‘One World One Cookbook’ is getting ready, with the OPOS template for all global cuisines. I’m going country by country, getting locals to cook complicated dishes from their cuisines with OPOS. TV shows have started happening. The OPOS App has been launched and it records all validated OPOS recipes and live videos. Restaurants, commercial kitchens and charities are increasingly being powered by OPOS.” Rama Krishnan’s book ‘5 Minute Magic’ has already sold around 5000 copies with a tagline – ‘Cook Free!’
Practising what he preaches, or cooks, the responses to my questions on facebook messenger were hammered out in 5 minutes as well. Author Jarod Kintz once quipped “I wish my stove came with a ‘Save As’ Button!” With Rama Krishnan’s OPOS, the monotony of cooking is broken, with the sheer excitement of whipping up every meal proving to be quite infectious. Cook it, photograph it and post it!
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)