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‘TFS is an innovative company; we keep inventing something new every day’

Food plays a key role when it comes to relishing a tour to its fullest. Gaurav Dewan, COO, Travel Food Services (TFS) converses with Akshay Nayak to outline the anchoring features of TFS which triumphs in the travel food catering segment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 11:34 Hrs  [IST]

Q How has TFS evolved into a leader in the travel food retailing in India over the years? What kind of stake do you hold in the travel retail space today?
We started when the airports were getting privatised and, that’s when we got into this business. At that point of time this industry was very scattered and unorganised with a lot of local and regional players. We realised that there is a big opportunity in this sector, basically for organised players. So we basically tried to match the service offerings to a consumer in that sense. To go hand in hand with the world’s airports, we have built some really good concepts, outlets. Currently we are running five lounges in Mumbai T2 and that’s a feather in the cap. We have been voted twice in a row, the World’s best lounge which is really prestigious for a company and a country like ours, where we are proud owners of the World’s best lounge.

We are operating at the large airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta, and committed to changing the customer experience at the travel ports is our objective. We have been working day in day out to ensure that the customers/traveller’s journey is completely taken care of, and whatever we can contribute to their journey, we do our best to make it more exciting for them. We work with all International brands practically operating in India right from Domino’s to Pizza Hut, KFC to McDonalds plus depending on the regional nuances and the specialty of each region in a vast country like India we bring in lot of regional flavour to meet the consumer’s needs. In Vizag, we picked up a concept called Sai Ram Parlour which is a local favourite there. In Calcutta, we picked up Kusum Rolls from the park street and brought it to the airport. So I think that’s encouraging for us at TFS, in which we are able to pick up on local entrepreneurs and take them to an organised F&B level.

Q The canvas for retail was limited to metro airports for a long time. How did you see the new opportunities that are coming up in railway stations & highways?
If you look at the current scenario of the Indian railways, it is at a point where Indian airports were probably 10 years back. The Government is really committed to this change to see it in every nook and corner of the country. And you can see that they are putting in the right ingredients as required by the recipe to change and transform India. And that’s what we are seeing in the market as well in terms of Indian railways today. There were recent CAG reports about unhygienic food in the railways. Not that the reports have not come in the past, but, there is some action which is happening based on these reports now. So there are some standards there are put including FSSAI licence that is required, IRCTC inspections which happen quite often. These steps are important to keep this check, but it is important to ultimately ensure customer satisfaction. Players like us follow the best standards, best practices and we put in the best of teams in place. We also encourage those teams to experiment on new things that will appeal to the target consumer. And, definitely we focus on complete hygiene and standard requirement in terms of good quality ingredients. Even though today railway business is small as compared to the airport business currently because we just started in railways last year, we are making an investment in transforming the Indian railways.

We have done a pilot project on highways where we picked up a B+ type highway between Delhi and Rishikesh in which along with a private developer; we have tried to create a concept of a National Food Court which is much inspired by the National Highway. We are trying to bring in various set of brands which would be able to give the consumer a variety of options. We have got mix of brands here especially for the different kind of audience who travel to Haridwar.

Q How do you build synergies with the e-commerce channels and apps to tap the new customer base?
In terms of apps, we won an award last year at the India Retail forum, as we were the first operators to develop an app which would do food delivery in the Airports. We got a delivery app called Food@gate. We started it in Mumbai initially and then took it to all other airports that we operate in. So one could order on that app, any food from any of the outlets in Mumbai Airport and we would deliver it in 15 minutes at the customer’s flight gate before they board the flight. In terms of e-commerce we are in talks with various partners to explore new opportunities in this area to leverage to the consumer’s advantage and our advantage at the Airports. TFS is an innovative company; we keep inventing something new every day.

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