When it & #BANNER1 & # comes to e-commerce sites in India, there are few success stories to call upon. And it would be no exaggeration to say that IRCTC is the first name that comes to mind. With online booking revenues running into Rs 700 crore in 2006, IRCTC Ltd has successfully created an online component to the giant Indian Railways.
Even so, bookings on the site constitute 7 per cent of the total railway passenger booking system. Speaking to agencyfaqs!, Sanjay Aggarwal, GM, operations, IRCTC Ltd, says that he expects this figure to grow up to 10 times in the next three years (Read the full interview here).
He adds that the site is aimed, not at NRIs and foreigners, but regular train travellers. "We are mainly looking at domestic customers, who are interested in visiting hill stations and other tourist destinations. If you take NRI customers, they would prefer to fly. So, we are looking for customers who usually travel by train and are travelling with their family." While the tour packages on the site now take care of train and hotel bookings, Aggarwal hopes that every leg of the journey can be booked through the site in future, including bus transport.
However, he is quick to add that the tourism elements do not entail a strategic shift: "IRCTC's main focus is on rail ticketing. Rail Tourism is an extension and we don't see it as something bigger than ticketing in the short or long term." In fact, the bookings are doing better than ever. Aggarwal says that July and August, which used to be lean months, are now picking up. In July, the site achieved record bookings of 37,000 per day on an average.
Aggarwal is also upbeat on the potential of mobile and kiosks in reaching smaller towns and villages. IRCTC has associated itself with the National Governance Plan, which aims to place 100,000 e-governance kiosks in the country by 2009. It has also tied up with the 10,000 SBI ATMs, Sify i-Ways (more than 3,000 in number) and 250 petrol pumps. "We want to see as many reservation counters as there are telephone booths. It should be available at your doorstep, without you requiring an Internet connection or PC," says Aggarwal.
Mobile booking is also promising. Aggarwal says that if the issues of bandwidth, connectivity and interface are ironed out, "there is absolutely no doubt... that it will grow." IRCTC launched SMS booking with ICICI Bank in 2005, and is now planning to tie up with NGPay and JiGrahak for GPRS-based mobile payments. Its mobile application, designed by C-SAM, received 600 bookings in the last few months, says Aggarwal.