We talked to Kriti Raj of RailRestro about ordering food online and this is what he had to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kriti Raj: We are doing well by health and family securities. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has brought worldwide sorrow, we are still somehow keeping it light. Lots of people have lost their jobs; businesses are shut or have been mishit.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded RailRestro.
Kriti Raj: I am a public relations manager by profession currently offering my services to RailRestro, an IRCTC (Indian railway catering and tourism cooperation) e-catering affiliate.
I met Mr. Manish Chandra, the founder and Director of the Yescom group of companies under which RailRestro was founded in 2015. Recently, RailRestro, the brainchild of Mr. Chandra, turned five years in September 2020.
As Mr. Chandra says, “He had frequent train journeys while studying and he always found that the food on the train is the greatest problem in India railways.” It’s not that there were no food options available, but as far as good food, i.e. healthy, hygiene and fresh, food on train options were nominal. The lack of good food on the train always pinched Mr. Chandra, and somewhere he has made up his mind to bring the right food solution for common passengers on the train during his teenage only.
Later in 2015, he finally launched his dream startup. RailRestro became very popular among the Indian railways’ passengers as it introduced an excellent medium for delivering restaurant food on the train. When introduced, it was one of its unique kinds of food-delivery system for Indian railways, which even made it possible to provide bakery items, child food items, Indian and continental food etc., on the train. The operation and execution of RailRestro kept flourishing until the lockdown prevailed and Indian Railways too stopped temporarily for the first time in Indian history. Suddenly, the business got severely hit by increasing pandemic effects.
How does RailRestro innovate?
Kriti Raj: RailRestro is an IRCTC affiliated e-catering company that is known as a pioneer company introducing e-catering on the train. It did tireless work to connect with the premium restaurant around the nation’s corner and brought them onboard with the RailRestro network to ensure food delivery on the train. RailRestro is an e-commerce business, so all innovation is required in Site designing and product delivery. Our RailRestro site is AI-Enabled sites helping the real-time food delivery to the passengers at their chosen railway station halt.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kriti Raj: Well! Coronavirus Pandemic has taken the business to a temporary close-down situation. As Indian Railways services were stopped temporarily from last week of March, it remained suspended till June. Later on, few train services were resumed; however, e-catering did not get approval for service resumption. From July to December, the company and its employees are facing the consequences of revenue loss. During this challenging time, I would like to thank my employees who kept patience so long and supported maintaining business visible by digital activities, says Mr. Chandra.
On the other hand, he adds that once we had an excellent business, we are now facing all the challenges to keep our business alive for the next few months until we get permission from the Indian Railways ministry & IRCTC to resume the e-catering system. RailRestro isn’t the only source of income for its in-house employees, but it has created job opportunities all over India by providing work –scope to delivery boys and girls and its wide-spread marketing team. It has always been a great source of revenue for its restaurant partners, which are located in various towns and cities and unable to deliver food on the train without RailRestro order values. Currently, Mr. Chandra is burning his savings to save his dream project of RailRestro and battling various financial issues, but he trusts that one day everything will be expected. Everyone at RailRestro is hoping for business resumption as soon as possible.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kriti Raj: Yes. The most challenging decision was to send the employees on unpaid leaves until the e-catering service gets resumed. We tried keeping the human resources engaged in various activities, but as the lockdown remained for 3-4 months completely, we had to take this harsh step forward, says Mr. Chandra. As we couldn’t offer the salaries to the employees for more than 3-4 months without any source of revenue generation, we had to ask our employees to go on leave until the business are-stars. The pandemic has taught me several things, i.e. how savings are essential for running the business, prominently the saving for rainy days.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and RailRestro in the future?
Kriti Raj: Anxiety and stress are apparent for those business heads who have not been able to commute the business activities for so long. There is no source of revenue generation. But we do strongly believe that one day everything will be fine and we would become the example for “rising again” and the golden comeback. In spite of a great fall in business, the founder and the employees are pretty sure that we’ll overcome this phase.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kriti Raj: There were very few business competitors as our services are spread in each corner of the country, making it the biggest e-catering channel in Indian Railways. However, few companies involved in e-catering are also facing the same consequences, and some of the team have finally shut their business.
Your final thoughts?
Kriti Raj: We have a strong belief that despite bad times, we will stay in the market and will make a strong comeback once the e-catering starts. We thank all of our well-wishers and our employees to have faith in us and keep in touch. Personally, I would like to thank you, people, too, for addressing this burning issue of Pandemic impact on small businesses. I appreciate this initiative. Thank You.
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