Tired of having too many soggy pizzas delivered to him, Vinay Mehta decided to do something about it. In 2006, with a pen knife, some cardboard and a long drive between Mumbai and Pune, he designed VENTiT, which has been judged as the world's best pizza box.
Mehta's container was accorded this honour recently by Scott Wiener, the New York-based pizza aficionado and author of a book called ‘Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box’.
Wiener should know. He has collected approximately 650 boxes from around the world since 2009 and is the Guinness World Record holder in this category. He said that of all the boxes he has seen, Mehta’s design is best suited to delivering steaming pizzas. “It's smart because it doesn't add any hardware, just rethinks the common construction of a box and rearranges it,” Wiener wrote to Scroll.
The biggest challenge faced by take-out restaurants, experts say, is the poor ventilation of the packaging. Trapped steam condenses on the food, making it unappealing and dampening its aroma.
Mehta was well placed to solve this problem. He has been dealing with corrugated cardboard boxes for 35 years. He owns a firm called Reproscan, which offers printing services to packaging firms, as also the advertising and publishing sector.
He realised that most pizza boxes are ineffective because they have holes on the side to release steam -- but the heat is actually released from the top and bottom of the pies. Mehta’s solution is simple.
Cardboard, he explained consists of three layers: two flat surfaces and one ridged corrugated sheet in between. VENTiT boxes have holes in the two flat surfaces, but not in the middle layer. This permits steam to travel through the grooves in the middle corrugated layer, without getting trapped inside the box. More importantly, no additional material is required to manufacture the box.
“It's the biggest challenge of pizza box designers to create something that retains heat without trapping steam while still staying inexpensive and I think this box has achieved just that!” said Wiener.
Here's what the box promises to do.
Mehta is planning to tie up with international partners to produce and distribute VENTiT boxes all over the world. It took him five years to obtain an initial patent and he started selling the box only in 2011. He now has patents in over 100 countries.
He already manufactures about 100,000 boxes a month for clients in south Mumbai. Smokin’ Joe’s, a 21-year-old pizza outlet was his first customer, but he has added several other pizza makers to his list, including Francesco’s Pizzeria and Pizza Metro Pizza.
He also supplies boxes to purveyors of other cuisines, from fruit to south Indian delicacies. “Have you ever ordered a dosa?” he asked. “It’s too rubbery. But with my box, it is delivered crisp.”
According to Mehta, the cardboard industry has remained static for over a century. “It has always been about two things: compression and cushioning. With my box, I’ve added a third element to this. That is ventilation.”
As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions
Is India ready to become a global superpower?
Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.
From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.
Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?
The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.
Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?
While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.
Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?
At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.
Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?
At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’
Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.
At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.