Indian Railways will make food order optional on all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, which will reduce fares.
The Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani fare, for example, would come down by at least Rs 300 a ticket if this plan is implemented, said a railway official. On this train, a passenger gets snacks, dinner and breakfast. A traveller pays for this while booking a ticket.
The optional food-order facility will start on an experimental basis on 10 trains within a month. “We are making food optional in Rajdhanis and Shatabdis,” said an official close to the development. “It will help passengers order food of their choice, rather than get the regular railway stuff. This is part of our overall strategy to boost e-catering. The move is expected to increase our daily delivery to 100,000 meals a day by next year.”
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) also plans to take on food-delivery companies such as Foodpanda, Zomato and Swiggy by going “off-track” (door delivery) with orders. The aim is to expand its e-catering facility to serve 100,000 meals a day within a year, from 5,000 now, through its ordering platform Food On Track. If it manages to achieve the number, it would be ahead of Zomato (67,000 orders) and Swiggy (34,000). IRCTC provides catering on 103 trains.
Sector experts, however, are sceptical about IRCTC’s food ordering plan. Scalability and adoption have affected its food ordering operations.
“The on-track food ordering plan has not found many takers. It would take a lot more, operationally, to take the operation off-track,” said a senior vice-president of a food ordering app. “This would require a lot of tie-ups with restaurants, solid logistical back-up and a huge team to run those operations. Unlike a food ordering app, IRCTC does not have that kind of technical know-how. It would be interesting to see how it goes.”
According to RedSeer Consulting, 30-35 per cent of the restaurant business in India comes from online food delivery partners. This segment saw revenue of Rs 1,931 crore in 2016 and is expected to grow further.
For its online catering service, IRCTC has collaborated with players such as Sagar Ratna, Saravana Bhavan, Bikanervala, Nirula’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Haldiram’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut.
Station-based e-catering services were introduced in 45 stations since September 2016. The scheme was extended to 408 stations later, giving passengers more food options