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.”
Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight
Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.
Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.
In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.
One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.
Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.
Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.
It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.
Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.
The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.
The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.