The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has helped ease rail ticket booking, improved catering in a few high-end trains and has introduced a few other services — online food delivery at trains, executive lounges, high-end meals and train hostesses at the newly launched Gatimaan Express and online shopping opportunities on its website—all for the benefit of passengers. This 13-year-old arm of the Indian Railways, with a modest revenue of more than Rs 1,500 crore, is gearing up to provide a whole range of new services like passenger insurance, dedicated secured airline booking app, helicopter services with the help of Pawan Hans Ltd and international credit card facility for e-ticketing, which alone has yielded it more than 40 lakh within 15 days of its launch. Chairman and managing director AK Manocha discusses IRCTC’s FY16 performance and its future ventures in an interview with Bilal Abdi & Hita Gupta. Excerpts:
Tell us about IRCTC’s financial performance in FY 16?
IRCTC has performed well in FY16. Our overall revenue has witnessed a 31% jump and stands at approximately Rs 1,500 crore in FY16, our profit after tax has witnessed a 38% jump in FY16 to Rs 180 crore.
What is your current user base?
We were able to sell more than 19.94 crore rail tickets in FY16 and have witnessed a growth of 9% over FY15. Our user base has witnessed an increase of approximately 60 lakh over FY15 and currently stands at 4.25 crore with around 15,000 users being added everyday. On a daily basis, our website gets around 50-60 million hits and more than 30,000 bookings take place through the IRCTC app daily.
What are the new projects IRCTC is working on ?
We are looking at many things in a few months. We will be introducing passenger insurance services. Initially, we are only looking at providing it for passengers with reserved tickets, but as soon as we develop a database, we will provide this service across the board. We are looking at all general insurance companies and the criteria will be based on the highest premium offered. We are in talks with the ministry of railways to integrate it with booking of tickets so that the passenger will only have to pay the transaction charges once. The insurance will also cover injuries and accidents which take place when the passenger tries to get on the train.
Besides, we have tied up with Pawan Hans Ltd to offer helicopter services and we have already started these services in Mumbai and after further discussions are contemplating extending these services on the Bombay-Goa, Chandigarh-Shimla routes, within Delhi and other tourist destinations like Kedarnath.
We are also looking at opening up hotels at Khajuraho and Lucknow through the part financing model, our executive lounges have also witnessed a boost, the executive lounges at Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur are already operational and are looking to set up such lounges in 21 more station this year. Upgrade of 2,000 retiring rooms at 600 stations on PPP basis is also on our agenda. The railways ministry will be chalking out a policy in this regard soon.
In terms of catering, what new avenues are you looking at? Are you expecting catering to come back to IRCTC as it was before 2010?
Yes the new catering policy, which would be out soon, should reinforce our status as Indian Railway’s catering arm. Our catering services have increased from 37 trains to 54 trains currently. We are also increasing our base kitchens across the country and are looking at setting up a total of 18 such kitchens.
We are also planning to introduce ready-to-eat meals and have already tied up with Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysuru, for contract manufacturing. We have requested them to give us a few samples of this product. We will supply them materials for the ready-to-eat meals. The sample size is for one lakh meals.
Will IRCTC launch new app services in the future?
We will be introducing our upgraded new-generation android-based rail ticketing app around June-end this year. It will be much faster. We will also be introducing a dedicated app for airline bookings within two-three months. We are in talks with Air
India and will also be signing an MoU in this regard, after which passengers will be able to book rail tickets from Air India’s website.