ICT helps IRCTC book 3.5 lakh e-Tickets in a day : RK Tandon, Managing Director – Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation, India

RK Tandon
Managing Director, Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation

Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is a Miniratna PSU under the Indian Railways and looks after the whole travel experience of a passenger from booking tickets to platform maintenance, food, and trains interalia. In a candid conversation with Sonam Gulati and Rajeshree Dutta Kumar of eGov Bureau RK Tandon, MD, IRCTC reveals the journey IRCTC has undertaken what role did technology play in their covetable journey

RCTC can be rightly called a pioneer when it comes to electronic G2C services. When and how did it all start, please share with us the journey. 

e-Ticketing has been one of our major initiatives and it was started in 2002, IRCTC was also very new at that time. At that time internet was in its boom period in India for such services and thus was the idea born.  More and more people had started using the internet then and we thought that this is the right time to utilse the growing potential of the service.

Initially, there was another school of thought that it might not be a very dependable and successful way of issuing tickets as there would no proper tickets and thus it was decided that the booking will be done on the internet but the tickets will be home delivered.

On the first day that e-ticketing was started, just about 27 tickets were booked online and today 3.5 lakhs of tickets are booked on a daily basis. Such has been the journey.

First e-Booking, then electronic ticketing and now sms alerts and PNR status. How difficult it is to manage technology when the end-users’ number spans to billions?  

It is a big challenge. To think of it, every day we are leaving a set of 30,000-40,000 people successfully getting their tickets booked it gives us some inspiration to keep going the last mile.

Firstly, I would say that there is a huge gap between the demand and supply.  The demand exceeds supply at most times and in that area we as IRCTC can’t do much. If there was adequate supply of berths and seats then it would have been a different situation.

Another big challenge is to manage the entire system on the cloud. If we look at figures, every hour around 10,000 people are getting their tickets reserved on IRCTC. But, in the peak hours in the morning around 35,000-40,000 people book their tickets. I will give you one example, when CBSE board results or any National exam results are declared there is a point when most of students are trying to check their results and thus the site gets jammed at that point of time, the IRCTC website experiences the same crunch daily. A lot of factors are involved in this, we have to have a secure payment system, people too need to have a proper speed internet connection and at the end we need a proper interface. To manage all of this is a big challenge. The site has to run 23 hours and yet 60,000 people are not being able to book their tickets. In 2002 the number of tickets getting booked was 27,000 and in 2008 it went up to 40,000. After 2008 it took a big leap towards lakhs. These are the major challenges and we are fighting them every day. 

fact file

  • On first day of e-Ticketing just 27 tickets were booked
  • Today 3.5 tickets are being booked daily
  • In morning peak time, 35,000 tickets are booked per hour
  • TCS designed the ERP for IRCTC in 2006-07
  • IRCTC got its Miniratna tag in 2008
  • You won’t have to carry a printed ticket soon, just the PNR number in your phone and Identity Proof would do

“In 2002 the number of tickets getting booked was 27,000 per day and in 2008 it went  up to 40,000. After 2008 it took a big leap towards lakhs”

Please share with us the IT solutions that you have deployed for the internal management of the organisation. Were there any ERP management solutions deployed or re-engineering done so as to improve internal work structure?  

We already have an ERP system in place in the organisation. It was done in association with TCS in the year 2006-07. The ERP has been very helpful in managing the organisation’s financial transactions. All our regional, zonal offices and the service centres are linked and integrated through ERP. In fact, ERP has been a boon when it comes to managing such a large organisation with so many verticals to look after. Say if we have 500 trains, so to manage each and every train’s contracts, maintenance information, bills, pending dues, when are the contracts due, when are the payments due and much more has become much easier with the integrated solutions of ERP.

Another management report that we have been able to maintain through ERP is the profit and loss accounts of different trains. So, we have each train or routes profit and loss data integrated in one software which makes it easy for us to monitor also.  

In all your endeavors with prominent use of ICT, how has it impacted the efficiency, revenues and time taken for completion of projects?

Well, yes the IT adoption has definitely helped in the performance of IRCTC.  We can monitor the whole profit and loss statements of all stations, as mentioned earlier too. There are both real-time data as well as monthly reports being generated for different stations. Comparisons of expenditure also can be done for a set period of say 3 years or 5 years. Obviously it is helping the organisation. All that management of resources, payments, expenditures, doing analysis and comparisons it all is being done through ERP. This is helping the organisation highly in monitoring.

How do you rate IRCTC as a PSU and what is your take on the activities that have been undertaken by the organisation? 

IRCTC got its Miniratna tag in 2008 and is a schedule ‘B’ company and it started with a small capital base about Rs 20 crore. In terms of its performance, we have these performance MoUs between Minsitries and the organisation, IRCTC has been getting the rating as ‘Excellent’ for the past 2 years.

When you look at the other PSUs, particularly the other Railway PSUs, they do not deal with the citizen directly unlike IRCTC. IRCTC’s whole agenda is to enhance the citizen experience and that is the unique feature of this organisation. We take care of the needs of the passengers. There were two objectives envisaged for the Indian railways, first was to provide hospitality and catering services and the second was to use it tourism development.

So, IRCTC has been doing a unique job and is excelling, the fact that we can constantly improve and learn is also not neglected.

What would your words be for your customers?

My idea has always been that the passenger is my monitor and we have these constant surveys and public opinion polls for their feedback. Be it complaints or praise, I should be accessible. We recently got a toll-free number so that people don’t have to spend money to talk to us. We have always tried to have as many channels possible for feedback. Quality of services is the focus. We even have the SLA revised on the basis of public opinion polls. In fact a new service which we are looking to introduce for our citizens, we have thought of using Mobile Technology. There will be no need to carry printouts of tickets; you can just carry your tickets or PNR on your mobile along with your identity proof you can travel.  Our focus will always be the total experience of the citizens and that is what we constantly work on.