Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rail passengers order meals online

Long-distance train passengers thought the day would never come when they would be served fresh and tasty meals instead of the mush dished out by the Indian Railways. Finally, it has.

Ever since Delhi-based Pushpinder Singh launched his fully automated food-delivery system in December 2011, more than 6,000 passengers have been relishing the prospect of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner en route to their destinations. The mad scramble for the train window to buy greasy and grubby snacks during a brief halt is finally over. And no more making doubly sure the railway pantry has your preference of 'cuisine' down pat, only to be served something that is cold and inedible.

Order On The Go
So here's the yummy option: Delhi-based start-up allows you to book your meals online or over the phone before your journey or even on the go. When the train pulls into the station, a delivery boy arrives with your meal just as you had ordered it off the travelkhana menu. Hard to believe? Well, read on.

This magical solution is courtesy the patented technology behind the platform developed by Singh, who invested a seed capital of Rs 22 lakh in the technology and a call centre to run this mind-boggling meal service.

The Food Chain
To place your order, you need to either log into the site or dial their call centre. Next, provide basic personal information and your PNR Number and then check off items from a menu that offers a choice - yes, a choice! - of cuisine. If you order on the go, there's a minimum gap between placing your order and time of arrival at your destination to give the local supplier sufficient time to process and deliver your order.
Once you've ordered lunch or dinner, relays your order to food plazas or restaurants in the vicinity of the station where your train will halt and a delivery boy will arrive with a warm meal at your berth or seat. And, yes, it's cash on delivery.
"We wanted to make things like a taxi service, medicines and food available to train travellers. And we have begun by solving the biggest problem of unavailability of fresh food on the Indian Railways. This is an untapped segment in an aggregated model," says Singh, who has worked in the technology and telecom sectors in India.

Revenue Model
The best part is the market is huge, adds Singh. "About 8 billion passengers travel by the Indian Railways every year. Only 434 trains of the 3,000 have a pantry car. We have already served 6,500 meals and have presence in 70 locations across Western and Northern India.

The cost of a meal ranges between Rs 50 and Rs 160 and the company maintains a profit margin of 18 per cent.

Travel Agents Partake
To promote its service, began by circulating pamphlets to passengers at and around railway stations, inviting them to order through their call centre. "The internal system used to run our call centre is backed up by our real-time tracking platform. We started the order online platform later," reveals Singh.

Then he got a brainwave. The company tied up with travel agents who sell railway tickets. provides them free paper to print their tickets in return for advertisement space on the back of the ticket. What better way to reach out to your target audience! also offers each agent a login ID to the website in case passengers want to book their meals while booking their tickets.

Missed Meals?
But isn't it tough to make sure the meals are delivered on time, especially since trains halt only briefly at platforms? "With effective use of technology, the failure rate has dropped to less than 1 per cent from an initial 5 per cent," claims Singh. "And if the meal doesn't make it to the customer, it is delivered at the next station so that the customer does not go hungry. has covered most of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Delhi. It now plans to expand to South and East India and north of Delhi. After meals, what's the next stop? "Eventually, we will provide similar services on long-distance buses too."

For Food Booking and Delivery visit:-

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