For hungry train travelers, there’s now more to bite into – TravelZaika joins the ride for meals on wheelsSharanya Chandrakantha Rao Inna
Pankaj Chandola was travelling from Goa to Jaipur by train when he ordered some food from an IRCTC vendor. He was dissatisfied with his meal, and found that his opinion was shared by a friend too. This led him to research on the railway catering eco-system. The pair realized that quite a few passengers were unhappy with their meals for various reasons – the behavior of the delivery staff, the quality of food, or simply the lack of choice.
TravelZaika (zaika means taste) is an effort to cater to travellers’ taste buds in the railway compartment in any train across India. The founders – Pankaj Chandola, Karan, and Rajat Goyal – believe that location should not limit the menu in variety or quality.
A little background
Pankaj Chandola (Co-founder and CEO of TravelZaika) is a management graduate from GIMT with expertise in marketing and sales. He has over seven years of experience in the IT industry. Karan (Co-founder at TravelZaika) has five years of work experience in trading and financial products. Rajat Goyal (Co-founder and COO at TravelZaika) has a Doctorate degree from Meerut University and comes with experience in HRM and Customer Relationship management.
The start of a journey
TravelZaika, established in October 2014, is powered by an eight-member team in Jaipur. The marketing and strategy team operates out of Ghaziabad. The founders targeted stations that were densely populated to begin their search for some appetizing food. They sampled items from vendors within 10 to 15 km of the station. Currently, they have 50 vendors on board with each processing close to 50-60 orders daily. Major orders are from Mathura, Aligarh, New Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Abu Road, Ajmer, Kota, Ratlam, Bhopal, Surat, Vadodra, Itarsi, Ahmedabad, Pune, and Nasik.
Customers can visit the website and enter the PNR or train number. A menu is then generated with details, including the halt time of the train and prices of the items. Payments can be made online or through cash on delivery.
So far, TravelZaika has received positive feedback from its customers with about 15 per cent of the orders coming from repeat customers.
The founders have invested more than Rs 7 lakhs so far in addition to the accrued revenues from services. They are also looking at raising an angel round now and are at various stages of discussions with potential investors. While starting up, they faced several challenges such as tackling focused customer acquisition, training the vendors with the process, handling operations and logistics and dealing with resistance from existing and established players.
TravelZaika is currently bootstrapped and is yet to make profits. Pankaj says that right now all that matters is that the customer is happy with the food and service offered. After a couple of years, the team is thinking of expanding their operations to include bus travelers as well. What makes TravelZaika stand out from competitors such as TravelKhana? Answers Pankaj confidently: “Nothing much just that our food happens to be the best.”