IRCTC online reserved ticket booking was 79.6% in FY21, which has been increased to 80.5% in the ongoing fiscal till August.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is aiming to strengthen its foothold in the four major business segments — internet ticketing, catering and hospitality, packaged drinking water, and travel & tourism — where it operates. With the number of passengers gradually increasing after the second wave of the pandemic, IRCTC is ready with a host of new services for its consumers while it also eyes new areas of businesses. In an interaction with FE’s Anupam Chatterjee, IRCTC chairman and managing director (Looking After) Rajni Hasija shares her views on how the company is planning to offer new services and steps taken to improve existing portfolios. Excerpts:
What percentage of overall online ticketing of Indian Railways in the reserve segment is being done through IRCTC? Can you please share what kind of improvement is being recorded this fiscal over FY21?
IRCTC online reserved ticket booking was 79.6% in FY21, which has been increased to 80.5% in the ongoing fiscal till August. It has been constantly increasing with 70.1% in FY19 and 72.8% in FY20. IRCTC has launched new user interface on December 31, 2020, for facilitating the customers with enhanced experience and user-friendly navigation with new features including ‘One click Rebook Favourite Journeys and Refund Status Check’, ‘One stop Train Selection’, which have been appreciated by the passengers. IRCTC has also integrated online bus booking through its micro site, www.bus.irctc.co.in, allowing booking of state road transports as well as private operators with more than 50 thousand bus operators covering 22 states and three Union Territories including Kashmir region. This service will also enable last mile connectivity to the railway passengers.
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The peak season for Rail Neer when water intake increases every year was disrupted by the second wave of Corona. Are you seeing a turnaround on that front? What are your plans for the segment going further?
Production, dispatch and sale of Rail Neer is increasing gradually after second wave of Corona and due to introduction of many trains. Production level of Rail Neer has increased to meet the requirements. Availability of Rail Neer on most of the railway stations is being ensured to improve the sale. Production capacity of plants has also been increased by adding one more plant. Currently IRCTC has 15 operational packaged drinking water plants. Five new Rail Neer plants have been approved and out of five, three plants are expected to be commissioned by FY22. All new plants are under PPP model.
You were looking for aggregators for supplying food in trains and e-catering business. Can established players like Zomato and Swiggy also partner with IRCTC in this business?
Presently IRCTC is working with nine food aggregators on all India basis. These aggregators have 1,236 restaurants under them which are supplying food at 230 railway stations. Food aggregators such as Zomato and Swiggy can partner with IRCTC, subject to adhering to the IRCTC policy guidelines which works in different environment as compared to their present business. Further, IRCTC is also engaging B2C partners to develop a tech platform which are currently operated by these established players.
What is the current status of the three passenger trains that you operate? How do you plan to capitalise on the opportunity from the Ministry of Railways’ announcement of running 150 private trains in the next few years via PPP model?
Two Tejas express trains are operational four days a week — Friday, Saturday , Sunday and Monday — since August 7, whereas Kashi Mahakal train is not being operated as of now. For 150 trains on PPP model, IRCTC has bid for nearly 29 trains in three clusters. The decision is pending with Ministry of Railways for awarding the contracts. The process for on boarding partners to participate in the private train tender is on. IRCTC will make formal announcement the moment a partner is on board.
The government plans to sell 15-20% of its stake in IRCTC via an offer for sale to meet the Sebi public shareholding norms. Can you share any update on that front?
The Company has already met the Sebi’s norms regarding minimum public shareholding requirement through its OFS in December, 2020. Consequent to OFS, the Government of India has only 67.4% shareholding in the company. No other information is available with us in this matter.