Indian Railways : Have they really embraced the Web ?

Indian Railways is one of the biggest organizations in the world and holds the record for the maximum no of employees employed under them. They have been quick to adopt changes, forecast demand in rail services and has managed to deliver constantly and moved on along with the times

Yet, their initiative to join the Internet bandwagon in providing Ticketing services and online information on trains may not be actually successful , compared to their forecasts and expectations.
The above failure is attributed to several reasons ,discussed below

  • IRCTC(Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) charges a service charge of Rs.40/- per ticket in case of Second Class and Sleeper Class tickets and Rs.60/- per ticket in case of tickets of other classes , for booking online.

The Rs.40 charge may not be a big deal ,but the concept of shelling out more to book online is frustrating , when we are actually saving transaction ,labour costs.Even the cost of printing the ticket is ours.

When all firms are encouraging their customers to perform transactions online , to save from overhead costs,employee costs,costs incurred in physical locations etc , IRCTC is charging more when one books online.

Citibank actually introduced a scheme called “Suvidha” where it charged customers around Rs.150 evertyime they came to the bank to do a transaction and not online.
Similarly private airlines such as Jet or Kingfisher offers a far better deal online rather than booking directly in an office.
Railways has to understand that , when one books online it actually means , less crowd in booking offices, considerable less human resource required and subsequently cost per passenger comes down considerably which thereby increases profits

  • Failure to integrate their reservation site and booking site. People usually log into or to check for availability and separately to book the tickets . Indian Railways must integrate the sites , and provide an option for booking a ticket and linking back to the IRCTC website directly in that same page ,if the corresponding ticket is available. They may be two different departments / entities in the organization , yet it is a must to bring them together to increase traffic
  • The southern railway and the Indian Railways website looks like a horrible mess ,with huge banner ads and matrimonial ads (even airline ads, which is a direct competition) and makes it look like a cheaply hosted website run by a small firm , and definitely not look like that of a 5000 crore turnover Govt Organization
  • Server capcity and traffic handling capability of the Indian Railways website is extremely poor , with the server going offline several times a week . 40 % of the time , it shows a network or a database error.
  • The “search for Information ” process to search train names, schedules or timings can be quite a difficult task for novice users. Only those people who are aware of the “string and substring search” concepts , and actually knows the mechanism of the search may find their required information . If the whole string is entered with a slightly different spelling , it shows an error or “No records found” msg, to indicate No such train exists ,and does not offer any alternative trains or suggest some other info .
  • Their “Spot your Train” feature, which indicates the exact position of any currently running training across South India is a brilliant concept (similar to the “track your flight feature in International flights”). Yet it has failed quite considerably with less support , and poor marketing . In a quick dipstick survey it was found that 90 % was unaware of any such feature in the Southern railway website.

If they could eliminate these errors ,and channelise their resources ,byr providing other services too, I guess they can reap in huge success and even convert some of the air travellers ,including foreign tourists to rail travel.

Probably they have to position their service offering , not as “just a train journey” but as an “experience” to savour

P.S – The last line was actually inspired from a true incident . The last time i travelled in a Shatabdi Express , the TTE actually loudly greeted all their passengers , like an air hostess and went and wished everyone a nice journey, personally

3 thoughts on “Indian Railways : Have they really embraced the Web ?

  1. Boss, first of all Railways is a monopoly. Even in the advent of so-called low-cost airlines (which anyway is reeling under loss), railways will rule the roost atleast in near term. Also, the bank’s case is different. For banks, branch transactions are costlier and hence they discouraged that with a penalty and encouraged an easy alternative which saved money for bank and also convenient for In railways case, manpower being a political issue and IR being largest employer in the world, they can’t do away with clerical staff quickly. They need to weigh various options and means to do that. Also, interesting aspect here is, the customer may pay even a premium of Rs.100 to avoid the dusty-hot-crowded reservation centres and do transaction online. I am not sure about the technical server down time issues. For me 90% of the time it has been very good. Please quote the source from where you got this info. Even if there is a problem as quoted by you, we should give the benefit of doubt to IR considering the massive simultaneous transactions that happen here…so, there will be a queing system to avoid confusion in booking. This could also cause some network problems. Spot your train thing is nice, but, not many consumers may use it as of now, even if they know. This could be used in freight trains rather than for passengers

    Surely, IR is changing big time. But, for a behemoth like that, it will take long time for a complete overhaul.

  2. Sir ,
    I agree with all the points
    but things like a better Site design , bigger server capacities , and banning large advertisements in that site can be done and implemented in short time.
    Because presently , the southern railways site can be easily mistaken for a Phishing site.

    @ Ankit
    They are doing a fine job , yet this post is just to suggest to them to make it more efficient and provide a far better service than what they currently offer.

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