The holiday season is here and undoubtedly the most convenient and pocket-efficient means of travel in India is the railways. However, one thing that puts off many people especially frequent travellers is the food served in trains – which is often limited in choice, known to be of poor quality, and many a times cooked in unhygienic conditions. Pushpinder Singh wants to change that. The founder and CEO of TravelKhana has set up a food-booking platform to erase these woes and connect travellers, going cross-country on an express train, with food vendors.
TravelKhana has partnered with several restaurants around the country to let you book your meal before traveling. Users can book their meal online by submitting their train details, the date of travel, seat number and so on. The site then lists out restaurants on the stations en route your destination. Once you book your meal, your meal will be served as soon as your train reaches that particular station. Some restaurants even allow users to book a meal just 60 to 90 minutes in advance, so you can check what the onboard pantry has to offer before placing your order. TravelKhana is competing with some other startups offering similar services, with MeraFoodChoice being an example.
One possible hiccup in the plan is that some restaurants insist on bulk orders, and there's a mandatory minimum charge for placing an order. This would make it a little difficult for people travelling alone or in a smaller group. Travel Khana is also working on a mobile app, which is expected to launch soon.
Book your meals online
Currently, a team of 21 people manage Travel Khana, working in Operations, Technology, Vendor Management, Marketing & Training departments. Singh, a Masters degreeholder in Computer Science from BITS-Pilani and a B.Tech from IT-BHU, has over 15 years of software and technology industry experience particularly focussed around products, and has also played the role of CTO in two of his earlier ventures.
Travel Khana earns money through commissions charged to the vendor partners which ranges between 15% and 25% for IRCTC vendors and between 20% and 30% for non-IRCTC vendors. As the sales increase, Pushpinder aims to earn a flat 20% commission and also plans to introduce customer service charge in the future for the services offered. The service currently doesn’t charge the customer. As a result, since August 2012, TravelKhana has successfully delivered orders to over 150,000 people, including bulk orders. The company is witnessing an average growth rate of 20 percent per month. Singh told us that the delivery miss rate has gone down to around one percent and they ensure that the food is delivered at the next station.
Track your meals
Incubated at CDAC – Noida, Singh put in the initial funding of Rs 22 lakh and later got Rs.35 lakh in Angel funding from Matteo Chiampo. Currently, the startup is in discussion with some early stage funds and close to finally closing an Angel round.