How TinyChef makes home cooking accessible for over two million daily users with Alexa

Arun Krishnan Aug 23, 2023
Alexa Skills

Bahubali Shete, CEO and cofounder of TinyChef, has been working in the technology field for 30 years. Shete started his career in robotics and industrial automation and started his first business in 2010, a robotic valet startup that parked vehicles using autonomous guidance. Shete has been the brains behind several other cutting-edge products, including Gecko, an Internet of Things–based solution that was a precursor to Apple Mart tags. Gecko was crowdfunded and was backed by Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple, and in 2014, the company was acquired by Hubble Connected, a brand licensee of Motorola.

Recently, Shete combined his passion for cooking and technology to create TinyChef, a voice-based solution for home cooks around the world.  Shete has a passion for technology but also a passion for cooking. His favorite dish, one that his kids also love, is an Indian street dish called pav bhaji, which is a luscious buttery vegetable curry served with bread rolls. TinyChef began as an Internet of Things for the kitchen using Amazon Alexa, the Amazon cloud-based voice service available on hundreds of millions of devices. 

Originally, TinyChef built a knob for cooktops that connected to Alexa to assist with timers for cooking. In 2018, the company transitioned to a purely conversational artificial intelligence (AI)-based and voice-first solution. Through a study group, Shete discovered a need for home cooks: they wanted the ability to create any dish, even if they were unfamiliar with a recipe. 

“Today, when consumers follow recipes, it is typically by watching a how-to video,” says Shete. “They play the video, pause at every step, wash their hands in between, and keep going back and forth from video to cooking. With a voice-guided solution in the kitchen, you can follow a recipe even while your hands are busy.”

Building an Alexa Skill to reimagine kitchen commerce

Shete’s company built the TinyChef skill, also known as the Sanjeev Kapoor recipe skill in India. Tinychef has close to 200,000 recipes in its repository and around 12,000 recipes currently on the Sanjeev Kapoor recipe skill. Kapoor is an Indian celebrity chef and television host with multiple awards. With the Sanjeev Kapoor recipe skill, you can ask Alexa to cook a specific recipe, or ask an open question about what to make for a healthy breakfast. 

TinyChef has daily traffic of almost three million users, and uses voice-forward experiences to engage users and grow the customer base. Today, Tinychef has developed new experiences with Alexa to reimagine kitchen commerce in three ways:

  • Contextualized ads: The TinyChef solution implements ads during the cooking process that relate to the experience and potential pain points for the cook in the moment. For example, in the time window a typical customer  takes to chop an onion for a recipe, Alexa can advertise a pull string chopper and ask if the cook wants to know more. The relevant ads deliver click-through rates up to 35 percent, in addition to delivering a measurably higher brand call enabled through an audio-first experience.

  • 2X recipe narration speed: Consumers are used to playing video recipes at a higher speed when they are exploring recipes. TinyChef enabled a similar experience with Alexa. Alexa can narrate a recipe at two-times speed for review, and then at regular speed during cooking. TinyChef offers also offers chef tips for new users, and automatic timers to reduce cognitive load on consumers.

  • Generative AI for cooking: TinyChef is working on using generative AI to increase the relevancy of both contents and ads served with the skill. Brands will be able to present a product, discover which recipes it is compatible with, and alter samples provided by the generative AI to fit their needs. TinyChef also plans to use generative AI to create recipe videos.

“Voice is ideal for cooking for the same reason it works for driving,” says Shete. “You can really engage with users in distraction-free ways.”

Shete says that Alexa’s growing reach and ease of development makes developing with Alexa no-brainer. To date, there have been over 500 million Alexa-enabled devices sold around the world. 

“We look forward to drawing on the advances in artificial intelligence to help home cooks create recipes for people they love,” says Shete. “And we look forward to drawing on the advances in conversational AI enabled by Alexa to bring these new experiences to life.”

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