The average daily sale of train tickets through the IRCTC portal, which is the world’s second-busiest with 3 crore registered users, is around 5.5 to 6 lakh. The portal has been able to book a record 14,904 tickets per minute, says Dr A K Manocha, Chairman & Managing Director, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), in an interview with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN)
How would you define IRCTC as a service provider?
IRCTC is India’s largest e-commerce and e-ticketing corporation and provides end-to-end travel solutions for domestic as well as international travellers. It manages the complete domestic ticket bookings for the Indian Railways, provides airline bookings, hotel bookings as well as other ancillary services for the passengers and is one of the key pillars for driving tourism in India. India, with its vast frontiers and overall cultural as well as historical diversity, offers international passengers a unique destination for holidaying, and IRCTC works as a catalyst in promoting tourism and thus contributing to the country’s economy.
“It (IRCTC) manages the complete domestic ticket bookings for the Indian Railways, provides airline bookings, hotel bookings as well as other ancillary services for the passengers and is one of the key pillars for driving tourism in India”
How has been the response of online booking of travel, hospitality, tourism and catering services through IRCTC?
IRCTC is the largest travel website in the entire Asia-Pacific region in terms of transaction volume (15-18 million per month) and it is among the most visited sites in India. It provides a full range of travel, hospitality, tourism and catering services to rail passengers. IRCTC user base currently stands at 4.25 crore with around 15,000 users being added every day.
On a daily basis, IRCTC website gets around 15 crores hits and more than 30,000 bookings take place through the IRCTC mobile app. Internet ticketing through IRCTC website has progressively increased over the years and its share in the total reserved tickets has also increased. Today, 59 per cent of reserved tickets for the Indian Railways are booked online. Internet ticketing on IRCTC was started in year 2002 with 27 tickets on the first day, which has now increased to more than 13 lakh tickets booked in a single day (achieved on 01/04/2015).
IRCTC clocked a turnover of Rs 1,140 crore in 2014-15, which is likely to increase to `1,500 crore in 2015- 16. We expect 15-20 per cent growth in turnover for the next five years. The average daily sale of train tickets through the IRCTC portal, which is the world’s second busiest with 3 crore registered users, is around 5.5 to 6 lakh. It has registered a record 14,904 tickets per minute. We expect a significant rise in online ticket booking with the launch of e-wallet. We carried out online ticket booking at Taj Mahal in Agra and Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi.
IRCTC has partnered with Oyo Rooms and ZoopIndia to offer hotels booking and eCatering services, respectively. How will it change the overall user experience? IRCTC has partnered with companies like Oyo rooms, ZoopIndia, Haldiram, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Dabur etc., and we are affirmative that their appointment will help us provide a more memorable and indulging experience to our users.
We have tied up with Oyo Rooms to offer comfortable rooms and a useful booking platform to rail travellers. We are committed to driving efficiencies and enhance our services through innovation. This partnership contributes another chapter to the successful narrative of ‘Make in India’ initiatives and how tech-enabled solutions will power the next wave of innovation. We have made the necessary technology integrations and will be actively communicating about these newly available options through e-mailers and information on e-tickets, so that our travellers can explore and utilise these services. IRCTC-Oyo Rooms will offer about 45,000 hotel rooms.
We have also partnered with ZoopIndia as one of our official food aggregator for ordering food during train journeys. We aim to reform the food catering in the Indian Railways by introducing advanced technologies and systems. Since we are always looking forward to offering our customers a delightful experience, appointing ZoopIndia as food aggregator is a step forward in the same direction. It has been our constant effort to broaden our e-catering facility, which would enable consumers to order from a variety of cuisine options. In the new age, we have to offer passengers with novel food options.
We are booking almost 4,000 meals per day while it was just 60-70 meals just two months back before the budget was announced by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. It has grown up by almost 70 times. Our minister believes working on a digital platform, hence he has set a target of one lakh. For an ordinary caterer, serving one lakh meals is not an easy task. Serving hot meals in the running trains is a very tough and challenging task, so we are looking for more vendors who can meet this challenge. Our e-catering website remains open round-the-clock and every month, and we are getting more and more empanelment.
“IRCTC is the largest travel website in the entire Asia-Pacific region in terms of transaction volume (15-18 million per month) and it is among the most visited sites in India. It provides a full range of travel, hospitality, tourism and catering services to rail passengers
How many retiring rooms have been upgraded into executive lounges and which all cities are being targeted for this?
We are already doing booking of retiring rooms at 500 locations and moving towards 1,500 retiring rooms through internet. IRCTC is also under process of opening executive lounges at railway stations which are of international standards.
We have invited bids for 18 cities and the tender will be opening soon. Nine have already been tendered and three have already started working in New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. We have launched executive lounges at Agra Cantt Station to provide airport lounge-like facilities to train passengers at an affordable rate. It has set a new precedent in rail travel, bringing together a bouquet of international standard facilities and services for the travellers.
We will shortly launch more executive lounges at Vishakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Howrah, Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Jammu. Our classic and of course best model is at Katra, Vaishno Devi.
Our super luxury train, Maharajas’ Express, is rated among top five most luxurious trains in the world.
What is the current status of IRCTC’s e-ticketing through mobile apps on Android and iOS, and your proposed ticketing solution for Air India?
Our mobile app is hugely popular. On existing website, we get large number of reservations, but since we are moving towards new generation technology at CRIS website, we will be introducing our upgraded new-generation Androidbased rail ticketing app around Julyend this year. It will be much faster. We are in touch with CRIS. A lot of issues have been resolved and we hope that we should be able to launch Android app. Another 80 per cent people, who have been waiting for the new Android app, will be able to access it by July. We will also be introducing a dedicated app for airline bookings soon.
As far as our alliance with Air India is concerned, we will soon sign a comprehensive MoU. Air India will sell IRCTC’s tickets abroad and also tourist packages. On our part, we will sell air tickets and make hotel bookings for Air India and others.
The Indian Railways is planning to provide video conferencing facility at railway stations. What is the plan?
Information Technology brings synergy. It cuts across various barriers. We are toying with an idea of having video conferencing facility at railway stations. We are working on it. It will help give a boost to medical tourism, tele-consultation etc. A patient could come to railway station and have a video conference with the doctors available in the hospital.
The Railways Minister has already announced that people can be trained at stations. Railways stations are islands of excellence at many places. Some of the positive features are round-theclock cleanliness and light, security, availability of manpower, etc.
IRCTC will allow NRIs to book e-tickets using international credit and debit cards issued outside the country. How will this step benefit the Indian Railways?
IRCTC has taken one more giant step in making it convenient for the international travelers to book tickets using their international credit and debit cards issued outside the country. For booking of rail tickets by international travellers, IRCTC will accept just any international credit or debit card at its portal through payment gateway provided by Atom Technologies.
Atom has deployed a robust technology and world class fraud protection mechanism and our technology team has made necessary changes, in collaboration with them, to enable such transactions. At present, only American Express international credit cards are accepted at the IRCTC portal. This facility will benefit 3.56 lakh registered international users and NRIs, who want to book tickets for themselves or for their family members in India. Initially, this facility will not be applicable to Tatkal and premium train tickets.
When will the IRCTC-Pawan Hans tie-up become operational?
The tie-up with Pawan Hans will be operational by next month for helicopter ride for Mumbai. IRCTC will sell tickets for this. Pawan Hans will soon launch a ride between Chandigarh and Shimla and also in the Northeastern States, apart from rides to Amarnath and Kedarnath.
“Our mobile app is hugely popular. On existing website, we get a large number of reservations, but since we are moving towards new generation technology at CRIS website, we will be introducing our upgraded newgeneration Androidbased rail ticketing app around July-end this year”