Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), the catering arm of Indian Railways has taken on the unlicensed private sector players providing food delivery services in railway coaches. IRCTC has complained against several food tech startups including Railyatri and Travelkhana for providing food ordering services without a legal license.
According to a Business Standard report, the services provided by these food tech firms are illegal. Earlier in April this year, RailYatri applied for a license from IRCTC to carry out its bookings and transactions after Delhi High Court ordered to stop its train travel booking services quoting it to be unauthorized and impermissible.
That order was only meant to stop unauthorized railway ticket booking services. Taking that a step further, IRCTC has now questioned the legality of food providers. IRCTC claims that no firm can offer food services to train traveler unless and until they are officially appointed as an aggregator by IRCTC. IRCTC invites aggregators via e-tenders.
It is to be noted that IRCTC earns INR 28 crores just via Google Ads, and we guess that due to the introduction of third party booking services, this revenue may be impacted. Nandan Nilekani-backed RailYatri earns 20% of its revenue through online food ordering services. Prominent venture capital firms like Omidyar Network and Helion Ventures have also invested in the startup.
According to a Travelkhana spokesperson, the startup claims to be under the e-catering agreement with IRCTC. Last year, IRCTC applied some arbitrary clauses to the agreement that led to some disputes. Two months ago, IRCTC said that they do not take any responsibility for the food’s quality ordered from Railyatri and Travelkhana and requested passengers to not book from such aggregators.
We don't support or encourage orders placed via unauthorised aggregators like Rail Yatri, Travel Khana etc. Please note we won't be responsible for the quality of food or any other concerns. We highly recommend ordering all your meals via official IRCTC #Ecatering website or app. pic.twitter.com/PD49E55evo
— IRCTC (@IRCTCofficial) February 21, 2019
The move by IRCTC is quite interesting as it is in talks with food tech giants like Zomato and Swiggy to facilitate food delivery in trains. The government’s e-catering arm has also tied up with Dominos, Comesum, RelFood, and RailRestro to introduce online food delivery services to passenger’s birth.