Hot meals on the go: Heatbox for healthy and sustainable choices

Borne out of his own father’s need for a quick and easy way to heat up lunch, Amit Jaura co-founded Heatbox during his studies at RSM. Amit’s rechargeable product caters to the new generation of people who feel responsible for their impact and are more food-conscious. Not only does the concept help cut down packaging waste, it also encourages a healthier lifestyle by allowing people to bring or cook their own lunch rather than buy alternatives or fast food.

How did you come up with the concept?
“I enjoyed bringing my mom’s food to campus to eat. During one exam period, I was sitting in the library and I needed to warm up my food. Back then, there were fewer microwaves, and just the one in the SPAR supermarket on campus. It was pouring that day. I remember being so frustrated, it was my snap moment. What also really made me think of the concept was my father, who has been a driving instructor for many years. It was hard for him to plan when to eat with so many lessons and sitting in a car for hours and hours. So it was often fast food, which had a lot of negative consequences on his health. It became so bad that he had to stop working. I really wanted to find a solution for people in situations like that. So that’s how the idea came up in 2017.

“Being Indian may have played into this idea because I’m used to eating hot meals for lunch. In my university days in Rotterdam, I brought a hot meal to campus whereas many others would bring cold sandwiches.”

What have you achieved so far?
“My co-founders and I quickly assembled a team after the initial idea. Everyone who joined was in some way connected to my personal network. Each of them was really excited about the initiative. We got into contact via our inner circle, and suddenly I had business partners as well as engineers. From there we created our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We tested it to make sure it worked. At first, the box looked like a bomb from the outside. We needed something that would also market well aesthetically. We developed another MVP—that did not look like a bomb—and launched a crowdfunding campaign in November 2019.

“We raised over US$ 90,000 in one month with the Kickstarter campaign. We’ve been able to secure roughly 1,000 pre-orders for Heatbox and it’s still possible to do so. At the beginning of this year, we went to the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas with Dutch representatives, every year they take 50 most promising startups to exhibit. This helped generate a lot of media attention and in turn helped us succeed even more.”

What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?
“I love solving problems and helping other people. As an entrepreneur you do both things. Helping others really satisfies me. In the case of Heatbox, I really enjoy the fact that we can help a lot of people be independent. We’re giving people freedom in a sense, so we call it freedom of food. We want to enable people to enjoy a hot, healthy meal anywhere and at any time.

I care about doing something that benefits others because I think I belong to a new generation. There’s a big difference between this generation and previous ones. It might sound cheesy, but I think our generation feels more awareness and responsibility when it comes to sustainability and health. I believe that courses focused on sustainability and organizational behavior, which are relatively new in academics, give great insights and understanding about the influence business has on social aspects and climate change for example. The responsibility that I have in society that the millennial generation has might come from that.”

Would you have a word of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“My number one bit of advice is: just start. That’s the biggest pitfall I think most students have. So many fellow students say they ‘have this cool idea’ and 9 out of 10 times they don’t pursue it. People should dare more at a young age. If you make room for it, there is time next to your studies. You might have to make some sacrifices but it’s the best time to experiment with things you like and find out what it is you don’t like.”