RailRestro is an online platform that ensures that people get quality food during their train journeys.
While 31-year-old Seema Suresh, a software professional from Bengaluru, loved train journeys, the idea of eating on the train wasn’t all that appealing, as she wasn’t sure whether the food was clean or hygienic. She would thus always find herself craving hot, hygienic food during her train journeys.
Thirty-year-old Manish Chandra and his wife Suman Priya faced exactly the same problem. Being travel enthusiasts, the husband-wife duo would always find it difficult to get good food on train journeys. They would only get food from establishments outside the railway stations, which offered better quality food at nominal costs.
This got them talking, and they eventually decided to address this pain point themselves, starting an e-catering company called RailRestro in 2015. Says Manish,
“It almost seemed impossible to imagine hot, savoury food being served, without facing a good deal of hassle, right at one’s seat while travelling in a train. It was while thinking on this that I came up with a unique business model to form a link between popular food chains and restaurants and the trains, thus solving the problem of the availability of quality food.”
RailRestro works on a marketplace-like business model, with a wide network of vendor tie-ups with restaurants across India. People traveling by train across India can order food via the RailRestro website, the app, or on call. Travellers need to enter their PNR details or train number information on the website/app.
The platform then fetches the detail of the passenger in terms of NAP, stations falling en-route, and the restaurants at which they can place their food orders while traveling. The minimum lead time to process the order is around 60 minutes. Passengers can choose to pay either through a secure payment gateway or through a cash on delivery option.
RailRestro is an authorised e-catering service partner of IRCTC, the Indian Railways ombudsman. Now, orders processed at the IRCTC e-catering portal are routed to RailRestro and other e-catering aggregators, and are processed on a PPP model.
“We made our first pilot project by delivering meals on trains running between Patna and New Delhi. When we found it working, we pushed further on the tie-ups with major restaurants across other routes,” says Manish.
The initial team was made up of the two founders and a few fresh graduates who joined in as telesales executives. Today, it comprises of 38 people. The core team includes Shalini Jha, who has finished her MBA in human resource management, Shilpa Singh, who has graduated in business administration, Ranjan Sharma, who looks after operations at the company, and Amit Kumar Roy, who looks after all the digital campaigns for RailRestro.
At the time of inception, for the first three months, the startup ran on a no-profit and no-loss model. RailRestro gained traction when it partnered with IRCTC, and started processing 600 orders a day nine months after starting out. It now has a presence in over 375 cities and across 400 stations. "We aim to map out every single station in India” says Manish.
Bootstrapped till date, the company’s 2015-16 net revenue stood at Rs 1 crore (gross revenue or GMV was Rs 6 crore).
Manish adds that there are close to 30 million people who practically live on wheels in India, travelling regularly by train, and that 32 percent of the trains in the country don’t have pantry facilities to meet the basic needs of food and water.
Today, the concept of ensuring that quality food reaches travellers is fast growing, with several players entering the field. Hyderabad-based OMitra is working along the same lines, while TravelKhana specifically focuses on food servicing. There are also RailTiffin, IRCTC-approved players such as Comesum, and even biggies like Jubliant Foodworks and Foodworld that are eyeing the space.
“Our vendor network is the largest among the existing players, and our transparent billing system has made it easy, both for our vendors as well as travellers,” says Manish, while agreeing that the space is burgeoning with several players.
At present, the company is in the process of mapping all the stations in the food radar through the maximum number of vendor tie-ups and processing a complete day meal for the maximum users. It is also planning to go in for a 24/7 food supply chain across Indian railways.