Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a public sector enterprise under the Ministry of Railways, has taken a slew of initiatives to grow its online ticketing and catering business.
IRCTC’s chairman and managing director A K Manocha, below, left, talks to Sanjay Jog about the company's growth strategy.
Where would you place IRCTC in the highly competitive e-commerce space?
IRCTC provides a full range of hospitality, travel, tourism and catering services to rail passengers.
The company has now moved on to become the leader in e-commerce in India and records one-third of total e-commerce transactions in the country.
IRCTC started with booking of 29 tickets and it has now reached 1.45 million tickets a day.
The total internet bookings increased from 6.8 million tickets in 2006-07 to 193 million tickets (amounting to Rs 20,621 crore or Rs 206.21 billion) in 2015-16.
Fifty-nine per cent of reserved tickets on Indian Railways are now booked online.
What are IRCTC's growth projections?
IRCTC clocked a turnover of Rs 1,140 crore (Rs 11.4 billion) in 2014-15, which increased to Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion) in 2015-16.
We expect 15-20 per cent growth in turnover for the next five years.
What are the challenges that IRCTC faces to keep pace with the growing e-ticketing space?
We have a strong legacy in catering as well as train e-ticketing solutions and have emerged as a flagship online travel market with penetration across all customer segments.
We have achieved viability across all customer segments, with majority of travellers belonging to the middle income group. Infrastructure is built to deal with a larger volume of transactions.
There are, however, challenges of reliability and speed of transactions, integrating business process, dynamic linking and performance and holding partners’ commitments.
This apart, IRCTC being a public sector company, there are government rules and regulations.
Work culture will have to be changed with more aggressive approach.
Moreover, IRCTC earns low revenue per ticket, which is around Rs 990.
MakeMyTrip generates Rs 13,464, while the figure for Yatra.com is Rs 10,956.
At IRCTC, we are clear to convert these challenges into opportunities and cash in on the strengths.
IRCTC today is the largest travel website in the entire Asia-Pacific region in terms of transaction volume (15-18 million per month) and among the most visited sites in India with 12 million unique visitors a month.
What does IRCTC propose to do to consolidate its position in the e-commerce space?
E-commerce will be the big game changer.
IRCTC plans to launch an e-Wallet in the new format wherein the transaction will be linked to Permanent Account Number and Aadhaar cards (currently optional).
A passenger can buy tickets up to Rs 20,000.
The transaction will be smooth and fast with remote chances of failure.
E-Wallet, which was launched about five years ago with registration charge of Rs 250, did not receive an adequate response as it has got only about 60,000 registrations so far.
However, IRCTC hopes to increase the transactions as it plans to reduce the registration charge to Rs 50.
The registration charge for inaugural launch will be zero for one month.
The revised e-Wallet will be launched before May end.
IRCTC will launch a special app by May-end for booking air tickets.
The company has become aggressive to expand the e-catering business by offering a 50 per cent discount for order size of Rs 300.
Furthermore, IRCTC has tied up with Amazon, whereby our platform can be used for multiple transactions, including food, fruits and flowers, gifts, events, boutiques, make-up, handicraft.
IRCTC will soon hold talks with the Patanjali Group for sale of its products. Further, it will tie up with various bus companies that want to use the platform.
What is the present status of IRCTC’s tie-up with Pawan Hans and Air India?
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 and rides in Amarnath and Kedarnath.
As far as our alliance with Air India is concerned, we will soon sign a comprehensive memorandum of understanding.
Air India will sell IRCTC’s tickets abroad and also tourist packages.
On our part, we will sell air tickets, make hotel bookings for Air India and others.
Top photograph: Kind courtesy, IRCTC/www.the-maharajas.com