Travelkhana Launches as an India-Wide Meal Booking Platform for Rail passengers
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 travelling. The Travelkhana automated platform, tracks trains in real time across India and ensures that fresh food is delivered to the passenger as per their choice in real time. 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.
Travelkhana currently operates by offering a call center interface as well as a web interface to passengers. The web version is currently in beta and still undergoing changes. These interfaces will be followed with a Mobile App and an SMS version.
Based in Delhi, they were incubated earlier at CDAC, Noida. They did some regional customer validation pilots during the Nov-Dec 2011 phase, but launched as a full fledged ordering platform only since January 2012. They currently work on margins of 10-20 percent of the ordered amount, but target to take this to 15-25 percent as they grow volumes and provide greater business to their vendors and also add many more vendors.
Logistics are taken care of largely by the vendors who handle the delivery. The TravelKhaana platform ensures that the delivery is made in real time.
They are currently operational in Bhopal, Gwalior, Jaipur, Ajmer and Kota. Passengers in trains passing through these stations can order the food of their choice. They have plans to cover the major cities on key railway routes in their first phase over the next year.
Target Audience and Tie-ups:
6 billion passengers travel on the Indian Railway network annually. About 10% of these are premium travelers, which is estimated as their directly addressable market.
“Our average feedback rating so far is 4 on 5. We make under 50 deliveries on a daily basis with very preliminary word of mouth marketing using pamphlets and stickers near railway stations. Roughly 3% of our customers have so far come back to us for repeat orders,” says Founder Pushpinder Singh, who expects to considerably scale this number with the launch of their web version and start of web based marketing campaigns.
For now, they have tied up with restaurants at 7 cities across India. They target to be in 20 cities including all the large metros by the end of this financial year.
“Railways has also announced new policies in the last railway budget for such services to be promoted on an India wide basis for its passengers. We are already in discussions with Railways on that front,” Pushpinder adds.
Pushpinder Singh, CEO & Chief Architect at Travelkhana has a Masters degree in Computer Science from BITS-Pilani and a B.Tech from IT-BHU. He has over 15 years of software and technology industry experience particularly focused around the product industry, besides having played the role of CTO in 2 of his earlier successful ventures. Ragini Rai is the head of operations at Travelkhana. She has 8 years of work experience in General Administration and Resource Management and is an MBA from Symbiosis, Pune.
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. This is an even bigger problem for the train passengers and there is a huge gap between demand and supply. Being someone who has suffered several times while traveling, Pushpinder came up with this idea of capitalizing on this opportunity.
Capitalization and Initial Challenges:
The founders have invested Rs 20 lakh (approximately) so far in addition to the accrued revenues from services, a business that Duronto initially funded itself from. The promoters have further committed Rs 30 Lakh to the venture. They are also looking for raising an angel round now and are at various stages of discussions with potential investors
While starting up, they faced several challenges such as focused customer acquisition, training the vendors with the process, operations & logistics management and resistance from existing and established players. While the aspects related to logistics management are aided by the platform technology, Travelkhana continues to work on others.
“We want to help the traveler enjoy the journey with never before choices for meals in the train delivered fresh to him/her. Now, we look forward to make food available in a train from any place the train is at during meal times. Thus, we are looking at adding several cities across the Indian map and increasing the market size. We also plan to focus on acquiring the Internet customer using a focused marketing campaign and to work along with vendors such that a delightful customer experience can be provided to the customers each time with reliable deliveries and excellent quality of products each time an order is made. This will require efficient logistics as well managing that the quality of food is consistent with each delivery,” Pushpinder, on behalf of Travelkhana concludes.