The Indian Railways is considering bringing gaming, internet-based food ordering services and ‘catalogue-based retailing’ in trains in partnership with entrepreneurs as part of the government’s larger focus on promoting start-up ventures.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu is considering a slew of measures that will improve passenger experience, including more focus on the e-catering business, and some of these initiatives may figure in his Budget speech next week.
The central government recently announced a Rs 10,000-crore corpus fund for new entrepreneurs as part of its ‘Startup India’ initiative.
Servers and gaming consoles may also be placed within First AC coaches to give passengers an arcade-like video game system, ministry sources said. Of the 8.2 billion passengers who annually travel on the 64,500 km network of the Indian Railways, 1.2 billion are long-distance travellers on mail and express trains. This translates into a business potential for online “food aggregators”.
Food aggregators such as Zomato and Food Panda have grown fast in the Indian market over the past couple of years, signalling growing ease with such app-based meal ordering.
“We are currently serving around 5,000 meals per day at an average rate of Rs 150/- per meal at about 200 stations. Over the next two years, we anticipate that these numbers will get doubled”, said Pushpinder Singh of Travelkhana.com, one of the current partners.
“While schemes such as the re-development plan for 400 stations provides for business opportunities for private sector through the conventional route, opportunities for “technology startups” are emerging in the area of IT integration for optimizing train schedules and to improve operational efficiency- including improvements in fuel efficiency”, said Biswanath Bhattacharya of the KPMG Consultancy.