It certainly wasn’t business as usual on Monday morning at Todi Mills Compound at Lower Parel. The maze of little lanes housing tony restaurants, all boasting of Mumbai’s transformation from mill to upscale space, was closed off to the general public, as Prince William and Kate arrived at the Social cafe. The royal couple was on the last leg of their Mumbai tour, after which they flew off to Delhi.
Will-Kat leave Taj yesterday morning on their way to Social, the last of their public outings in Mumbai. Pic/Bipin Kokate
At Social, Will-Kat met young, aspiring entrepreneurs at a UK government project called, ‘The Great Campaign’, which promotes the UK across the globe. They launched the third edition of the Tech Rocketship Awards in Mumbai, which give successful Indian startups a chance to fly to the UK to meet venture capitalists and mentors.
Prince William and Kate Middleton were shown DosaMatic by co-founder Eshwar Vikas. Pics/PTI
“Being here today, it is clear that India is leading the way in so many areas of innovation and technology. Your ability to innovate is not just good news for India, but great news for the world. With one-sixth of the world’s population young, innovators like you must play a major role,” said Prince William in his short speech.
Vaibhav Lodha, co-founder Ftcash and Sanskriti Dawle, co-founder Project Mudra
Vaibhav Lodha, co-founder of Ftcash, a mobile app that allows micro-merchants to come on board in less than five minutes, and allows customers to make payments electronically though different avenues, said about Will-Kat, “They were cordial and used our app, asking questions and encouraging us.”
William and Kate also went on to learn Braille on Project Mudra’s Annie, a BITS Pilani student startup, that seeks to put Braille within the reach of all visually-impaired people. Sanskriti Dawle, co-founder of the device, said, “The duke and the duchess both learnt Braille. Kate went on to write George, her son’s name in Braille. It was really cute! All those who were there cheered and clapped. Our project is about ‘Make in India’ and sells everywhere.”
Will then proved he’s the new-age royal, showing some dexterity with the dosa. The royal duo tried their hand at making a dosa on DosaMatic which can make dosas, omelettes and even pancakes. The Mukunda Foods start up machine can make up to 500 dosas a day. Co-founder, Eshwar Vikas said, “Prince William was very hands on and even went on to taste the dosa after making it. He said, 'Namaste Mumbai! Thank you for the dosa experience. It is going to be more filling next time.’ Kate on the other hand was less adventurous and refused a bite of the dosa!”
Being down to earth was their most endearing quality, said Bangalore-based innovator Amey Mukund. Mukund was impressed with the diversity of their grasp of different subjects and the fact that the couple, “did not look overwhelmed by our presentations.”
Many of these youngsters were hoping to win the Tech Rocketship Awards 2016-17. Suman Reddy, whose medical startup is in the incubation stage in Mumbai, stated, “Not just meeting William and Kate, but innovators here as well as Anand Mahindra and Mohandas Pai was inspiring. I am hoping to go to the UK after winning the award and maybe, visit the duke and th duchess at Kensington Palace.”
“It was surprising to see just how interested the royal couple was to understand the workings of each of the startups. They asked genuine questions and wanted to understand the projects thoroughly,” said Social owner Riyaaz Amlani, who also said that the couple reached the venue before time and stayed longer than planned.
Finally, when the couple left, Will in a suit and Kate in an off-white dress, looking more formal than they did on Sunday morning, when they were in casual cool because of their two outdoorsy public outings, which were at The Oval Maidan and Banganga Tank, people waved madly at the entourage.
Some people who could not enter their workplace, because access was cut off for a while on Monday morning, were happy that they had a royal excuse to go in late to work. Others were grumbling below their breath. Overall, though, the visit was certainly something for Mumbaikars to chase away their Monday morning blues.
It is over to Delhi for Will-Kat, who seemed to have warmed city hearts with their easy breezy demeanour.