Monday, March 10, 2008

India Rail Story. Continued...get tickets with Mobile phones

A few months back when I was on my way to India, I made online reservations for a train journey in India sitting here in Palo Alto - something travel agents in India had a hard time doing. I wrote a blog on it. The point of the story, ofcourse, which many people missed - inferring from the comments, was how empowering the internet is but so many in India do not have internet access and are not expected to get it anytime soon.

Well here is the good news - my blog readers may have missed the point but the Indian Railways didn't (yes I take full credit for this development!). "In a rare example of action pre-empting intention, mobile rail ticketing had already been in use for several months before Railway Minister Lalu Prasad announced it as one of the highlights in his budget to modernize train reservations. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp Ltd (IRCTC), a division of Indian Railways which issues tickets to about 15 million passengers daily, launched IRCTCmobile (link to article) services to provide "cutting-edge technology" developed by C-SAM inc. IRCTCmobile, which is device and network agnostic, allows passengers to perform various services such as book tickets using credit and cash cards, view train schedules, check availability, get fares, perform inquiries and access many other associated information services through mobile phones. "

'"IRCTCmobile is a great example of how the most advanced mobile technology can be deployed in a country like India to benefit the masses, including people at the bottom of the pyramid," Pitroda said.

Given the size of the Indian Railways and the rapid growth of mobilephones in India, This stands to becomeone of the largest mobile phone applications in the world - benefiting all involved.

Give them technology!


jinglebelll said...

At a recent IAMAI conference VAS 2008, a senior member of IRCTC mentioned that while Mobile applications are a good innovation, they are yet to prove themselves as a killer application for the masses.

A few suggestions as to how can this pathbreaking application translate into a killer app.

1. There needs to faster and cheaper access to the internet. Telcos need to encourage such applications as a means to increase GPRS usage (Data usage) and hence a mean to increased ARPU.

2.Secondly, e tickets booking needs to be enabled from Credit cards and Bank accounts/cards on the mobile. The present system encourages e ticket bookings only through Cash Cards.

3. The industry as a whole should conduct more and more user awareness programs to essentially convey benefits of net/GPRS access over and above the cash generating ringtones, wall papers & CRBTs.

my two cents...

To read more about the iamai vas 2008 conference , visit

Neerja Raman said...

Hi jinglebell,
I agree with you completely. All three points are well taken. The number one application platform need for mobile phones is around banking and safe money (including credit card) transactions.

However - it is the potential that is unlocked by the technology that must be given kudos to. And it i good to remember that the folks at the base of the pyramid are more likely to use cash cards than credit cards.

jinglebelll said...

Hi Neerja,

There is no second thought on the merit of technology that is in place.

Howeever, far as the Cash cards are concerned, i would be keen to know what percentage ot transactions (Cash cards account for 27% (by value)of all transactions on IRCTC) have been used by the masses.

A few facts here as well.

Merchant Booking in IRCTC is way ahead of phone based tickets.

A merchant who sells a Cash Card gets a percentage of value. He also gets money on a train ticket sold. (It would hence be an ideal case for the same small time merchant to book customer tickets only through Cash Cards.)

(*** However, am not too sure whether IRCTC has an account deposit system for merchants that gets debited for every transaction.)

It would be really great if there can be some data to support the cash card stand.