Staying troubled by food offered in trains is a common angst of most of us in this country. Most of us overcome that with either packed food from home or depending on stalls at platform. During the journey, many of us had dreamt of having finger lickin’ food. Wouldn’t it be great to order food of your choice online while booking your train ticket so that it can be delivered at your seat in train? That’s exactly the service TravelKhana offers to Train travelers.
Started by BITS’ian Pushpinder Singh, Travelkhana is a marketplace that connects passengers with several restaurants on the Indian Rail network. It offers a variety of choices to a Railway passenger so that the passengers can order food as per their liking and at their price point while they are traveling. Travel is a passion for the founders of TravelKhana and there is considerable work done in the Indian internet space in this sector. However, they felt, once a passenger buys a ticket, there is very little that technology has to offer in terms of the passenger’s needs being fulfilled for food, local transport and local lodging. Travelkhana was born such way as the first realization of a food buying marketplace for a train traveler.
TravelKhana do their service in a really smooth and transient way. The customers contact TravelKhana through multiple means like SMS, Call or Mobile Apps. TravelKhana’s system picks up the PNR Number, and customers contact details. The customer is provided with the available vendors according to his/her station preference and time of delivery. Travelkhana’s automated platform tracks trains in real time across India and ensures that fresh food is delivered to the passenger. It also helps vendors and restaurants in terms of effective and efficient fulfillment. Additionally it completes an entire fulfillment cycle right from the point of ordering to Delivery, Customer feedback and Reconciliation.
Customer Response has been really encouraging. TravelKhana has delivered 45,000 meals since August 2012, with a 1475% Gross Food Revenue growth in the past 9 months. Of the total orders, 32% come through repeat and referrals, and 51% were generated from the web through searches and direct access to travelkhana.com ordering site. All this achieved with very limited and innovative means of promoting ourselves. Currently, TravelKhana serves 500 to 600 meals on a daily basis.
There are a number of established alternatives a traveler can use to procure food en-route are the competitors. One major indirect competitor is the home food brought on board by the travelers. This is a common habit for the Indian traveler. Inc42 quizzed TravelKhana CEO Pushpinder Singh on how to curb this indirect competitor and this is what he said, “We aim at substituting and supplementing this way of procuring meals on board of trains because we feel that most people end up doing so because access to decent food is not available en-route. Another aspect is that for longer train rides, food from home usually only lasts for one meal. The second and third meal can be sourced through Travelkhana.”
TravelKhana will face major competition from IRCTC-provided food on board of trains, Restaurant chains like COMESUM Restaurant, Hawkers, unauthorized platform vendors and station stalls.
Pushpinder recognizes that the challenge of reaching their customers and creating a long lasting experience for them within limited budgets. He also feels that there is a variation in interpretation of quality for different customers. They hope to standardize their meals and menus including quality packaging.
There is still a lot to be done in this market place. When Inc42 asked Pushpinder about TravelKhana’s future plans, he replied, “We intend to focus on food as the broad focus in the short term and medium term future. Within this we would like to increase the choices available to passengers and intend to standardize these with a high quality packaging and presentation. With this we would want to cover the entire map of the country by expanding our reach to about 100 more stations. Travelkhana should be the default option when a passenger is considering buying food while on train. We also intend to start working on how we could address a similar problem for buses as in some ways availability of decent food enroute exists a larger problem for the bus passengers. The size of the bus market is equally large.”
We at Inc42, hope to see TravelKhana shape itself as a generic marketplace for a passenger on the move that would include food as well as transport (taxi), stay, gifts or anything a traveler buys or consumes while on move.
The next time you are out traveling, Ping these guys and relish quality meals. Tell us what you feel about TravelKhana by commenting below.