In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Pushpinder Singh, CEO TravelKhana, shares how the idea of the first India-wide meal booking platform connecting train travelers with restaurants on the Indian Railways network initiated.
More than 3 billion meals are consumed by long-distance train travellers every year. Yet, access to food inside train coaches is a major challenge. Food vendors empanelled by the Indian Railways offer a limited choice of poor quality, un-hygienic and overpriced food. Pantry cars are known for abysmal food preparation quality and service. And this has given Pushpinder Singh a channel to start something of his own, where he could provide food to travellers.
How the innovative idea of starting TravelKhana initiate?
As an avid traveller I realised that despite having so much technology to serve people buying tickets or hotels, the travellers still experience discomfort when it comes to obtaining services on the move. If that is solved, travellers in India can travel much more comfortably as they will not be limited by their movement and not be victims of unscrupulous food vendors, taxi cab operators and the like. A marketplace was the natural choice for such a problem to be solved. As it was simply impossible for a start-up to have the resources to do everything – from producing/merchandising the supply to managing the market and technology, so we focussed on the single biggest problem. Food in train was thus an obvious choice to be solved.
TravelKhana’s platform tracks train running information to insure meal delivery at the right time, at the right seat, that is fresh and ready to eat. The entire process is managed by a completely automated workflow that sends real time reminders to passengers as well as restaurants so that the entire process can happen smooth and fast.
What special menu does TravelKhana provide for customer travelling via rail?
Travelkhana has been a marketplace for restaurants wherein the menu of the restaurants is listed for the customers to order from. Over the course, we realised that options listed in the menu are limited; also, the predictability on the service provided by restaurants is low. As a result, we decided to standardise across the board.
Starting Sep-1, 2015, we have standardised menus and prices across the board. Along with the standardisation, we are also building a quality and processes layer that will control the restaurants and their quality. Our quality and audit team will work with such restaurants to bring up their quality to a uniform standard. Along with this, we will also have a feature of “featured restaurants” wherein large brands or local specialties can be listed as featured restaurants. This way we serve the long tail as well as the mass market needs.
Which route is your most revenue generating? What is the reason behind the same?
Trunk routes between major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Chennai are the highest revenue generating.
What are your views on the FSSAI law and its take on food product?
We think the FSSAI is an encouraging step. As a part of our standardisation drive, we insist that FSSAI is a minimum must besides other standards that restaurants must take up.
Are you planning to provide meals in bus etc.?
Yes. We are in the middle of planning this. We will do 4-5 major southern cities to start this activity.
What is your expansion plan?
We will increase our depth in the cities we are present. Besides, we will locate ourselves in 400 stations from the current 160. We are increasing ground presence at these stations and building regional teams under regional managers covering a region. Southern market is a market where our presence earlier was limited. We are increasing our penetration there. A tie up with IRCTC is on the cards.
Additionally, we think that the need of good food for highway travellers is also a big requirement. We will get into that as well soon as our standardisation drive gets underway.
Tell us something about your business model?
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