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Interview with Raj Deepak Nagrani, Designer of 5-Section Skillet 'MasterPan' and Co-Founder of MASTERPAN

Monday, July 2, 2018




by Beren Dere

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When Raj Deepak Nagrani and Chris Matsakis meet, they put their ideas and abilities into the table and MasterPan was born. And now, MASTERPAN has Innovative Cookware Collections that includes near 50 different products. In order to learn more about this journey, I asked Raj Deepak Nagrani, Designer of 5-Section Skillet 'MasterPan' and Co-Founder of MASTERPAN.

Raj, before start to talking about MasterPan, could you tell us about your background and industry experiences?

Originally from India, my family migrated to Hong Kong in 1920's so I grew up and went to school in Hong Kong. After doing a year in University in the United States I had to drop out due to financial difficulty and came back to Hong Kong and started working for a toy trading company. After few years experience I moved back to the United States in 1986 to start my own import business which was a success with offices in L.A., Chicago and New York and then moved back to Hong Kong in 1993 to set up my own export company over here. So for the past 30 years, my experience has been in the trading business as a buying office for many major importers around the world.



You and Chris Matsakis are creators of MasterPan Divided Skillet. How did you meet and how did you decide to design this innovative cookware?

Chris who is based in Chicago was introduced to me by a common friend who knew Chris was looking for an honest and reliable trading company in Hong Kong to help him with his growing import and online business. One day we were just discussing our passion for cooking when I asked him what he thought about this idea I had been thinking about and he simply said he loved it and if I made it he would buy it. From that point, we have never looked back from the time we came to my office and I drew the first picture of our 5-section pan using crayons and an A3 size paper. There were a few pans out in the market already with 2 and 3 sections but not made properly and of very poor quality and design so I came up with the design of a 5-section pan that was able to do the job I wanted and do it properly so I could use it at home to cook for my family. Good quality with a proper name brand non-stick coating, etc.

Could you tell us about MasterPan brand?

Initially our first pan the 5-section pan was called the MASTERPAN but after 2 years of success, we decided to build on the name MASTERPAN and just create a whole line of good quality cookware around it. As of today we now have close to 50 products built around this brand and continue to grow it similar to the brands MYER, TEFAL, CALPHALON, OXO, etc.

What are the features of MasterPan Divided Skillet?

The primary feature of our divided skillets is to be able to cook or reheat multiple foods at once instead of using several pans thereby saving on gas or electric for the stove and water to then clean. Plus for smaller homes with only 1 or 2 gas hobs, you can do so much more using our multi sectional feature. You can even boil rice and vegetables grilling meats at the same time on the same 1 heat source. Obviously now many others have copied us but when we launched we were the only ones that could do this.

Do MasterPan Divided Skillet offers us energy saving? Can we use it on both electric or gas stove and ovens?

Our pans can be used on any heat source and definitely provide an energy saving feature as you would need to have at least 3-4 burners on at the same time to be able to do what one burner does for our entire pan. Plus its designed so the center part is about 15-20% hotter than the sides so the heat concentrates under the grilling section for meats that require more heat than boiling vegetables or frying eggs. You need to use it a few times to understand the heat distribution based on your cooker since all are different but once you do that anyone will find it amazing.

Which features of your design makes MasterPan Divided Skillet unique and different from competitors?

It is designed so the heat distributes properly and the grill in the center is at least 15-20% hotter than the sides.

We only use name brand non-stick coating such as Xylan Plus from U.S. based company Whitford.

The different compartments have been sized properly so they are actually useful as there are some copies that are like 10-15% smaller that does not heat up as well or distribute properly.



How many different models of MasterPan Divided Skillet do you offer? Do you have any new sketches on the drawing table?

Right now we have the 5-section, then we have the 3-section, and also a 2-section. We are launching the 2 and 3 section next month on Kickstarter. Besides these we are developing some other different kitchen prep items as well like a multi section spice grinder which you can have 5 different spices and select which one you want and just grind that as well as a multi section chefs knife which is also very cool. Plus we are now looking for other cookware and just making it better quality or more affordable to the general public.



Could you tell us about the products you offer besides Divided Skillet under MasterPan brand?

As mentioned above besides our MASTERPAN brand we have also the brand MASTERLON which we use for our kitchen prep items like a garlic press, lemon press, knives, etc.

For both our brands we now use the tagline FEEL LIKE A CHEF under as we cannot guarantee people will cook like chefs but at least using our quality products they will definitely feel like one.

We have over 50 products under production now which we keep introducing slowly and so hopefully by end of this year, we will have a complete line.

How often do you add a new cookware to the MasterPan collection? Which part of the MasterPan cookwares mostly reflects your first idea?

We are always thinking of different unique new designs to add to the line which may be completely different or just taking something we saw existing but can be made better. Right now we will be launching soon our Stove Top Oven Grill with unique patented stainless steel lid with over 5000 lazer etched holes that allows steam to escape but retaining heat thereby creating a kind of oven-like atmosphere using your stove top so you can heat frozen pizzas or frozen food but also make the perfect grilled chicken or steak. We also have our MasterWok with built-in thermo gauge and moke vents with a smoker chip box and steam rack that you can use to either smoke, steam, stir-fry or deep fry food.



Which material do you use to provide non-stick surface? What are its differences from classic no-stick surfaces?

Right now we have products using non-stick coating from companies like Whitford (USA) and ILAG (SWISS), stainless steel, and ceramic non-stick coating. The primary difference between non-stick coatings is really the brand you use and for each brand, they have different levels of coating. So for example, if you look at ILAG non-stick coating they have the sub-brands BASIC, ULTIMATE, SPECIAL and PREMIUM where the difference is how many layers each is, the coating thickness, scratch resistance level, etc. And for this, the cost difference on each pan could be up to US$5.00 extra if you want to go from BASIC to ULTIMATE so just depends on what consumer level you are selling to or how much profit you want to make etc.

We try to keep our strategy as providing the best possible cookware at an affordable price. So we go with the medium to medium-high levels of coating and finish which is already better than 70% of the basic cookware in the market but yet sell it for competitive prices.

You made a very successful Kickstarter project. What was the key point of your success? Do you have any new Kickstarter project on the road?

It was the first time we did a Kickstarter project so really had no idea what we were doing and just learned as we went along. For the first time, it was definitely great and I think the key point of the success was the product being unique so whoever saw it liked it. Unfortunately, we could have probably done much better if we would have been able to advertise it in the proper channels.

We have another project under preparation right now for launch in July and that is for our 1-2-3 section pans. The 2 and 3 section are obviously unique and our own designs and we decided to also make the perfect grill pan which is our 1 section as we found many of the grill pans in the market were not very good and either the grill ribs were too low or the pan was very thin so did not conduct the heat properly so we decided to make the perfect grill pan since its always a good seller. Our marketing idea for this is that cooking can be as easy as 1,2,3 so with our set of 3 pans you actually don't need any other pans.

Then after this we will be doing a launch for our multi-knife which is the ideal BBQ, Camping or even knife for smaller homes as you will only need this one knife to handle all your cutting needs. Even comes with a cover as well for protection while storing. There is nothing like it in the market.



Which countries are your main target markets? Do you have regional marketing strategies?

Our primary market is the U.S. and then after that is U.K. Now with our new e-commerce website ready we are looking for distributors in other countries that would be interested in carrying the entire product line on a franchise model base business. Since we are concentrating on the e-commerce channel of selling we feel that all our marketing and advertising campaigns can be used on a similar platform for most countries as cooking has become a very universal passion.

Which media types do you prefer for advertising? Which media type is most effective advertising option according to your experiences?

We have found that viral picture and videos have given us the best responses thru channels like ladbible, 9 gag, insider, tasty, Diply, etc. That have gotten us millions of views worldwide.

Do you participate to trade shows for introducing your cookware to retailers and wholesalers? What do you think about the efficiency of trade shows?

We just exhibited at the Chicago Houseware show in March which is one of the biggest and important shows in the cookware industry where most of the major brands exhibit and major customer visit. You do not really get big orders written on the spot but its more to have a showroom to present all your new products at one time to all the major customers.

What do you think about the power of social media? How do you use it?

That is where our future is thru facebook, youtube, instagram, influencers, etc. But it takes time to understand and how to use it properly. We are learning slowly but surely.

What do you enjoy most about using MasterPan Divided Skillet?

One pan, one clean up. I don't think I could have solved the problem I had any better. I never get tired of looking at my pan or using it.

Where can our readers buy MasterPan Divided Skillet and other MasterPan products?

In the U.S. our entire range can be bought on Amazon or on our own site and thru most major e-commerce sellers as well.

What are your local and international growth plans for the future?

We hope to make MASTERPAN a major brand in the next 5 years equalling the current leaders of the cookware industry like Meyer, Tefal, Cuisinart, etc.

Anything you would like to add that I haven't asked?

One of the things that we try to do is that even if our primary sales channel is via online we package our products like they were being sold in a retail store so everything comes packed nicely in a gift box or sleeve packaging with a care guide, etc., so that for anyone buying or receiving as a gift they get a retail experience that they received a good product and its not just thrown in a brown box and shipped to you.

Thank you Raj.

For more information, please visit website of MASTERPAN