If you thought only air passengers book their tickets online, think again. Every third reserved ticket sold by the Railways is on the internet. Ticket sale data between April and July 2009 provided by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which sells online tickets, out of the 880,000-odd tickets sold online everyday, around 300,000, or 34 per cent, were online.
With improved access to internet, online sale of tickets has begun to grow at a fast clip. In 2008-09, of the 860,000 or so tickets sold everyday, around 200,000 ( above 25 per cent) were sold online. IRCTC accounted for 17 per cent of the total passenger earnings of the Railways in 2008-09.
Data also suggests that not just the well-heeled but people from all socio-economic groups have begun to book railway tickets online. As much as 63 per cent of the reserved tickets sold on the internet up to July this year were booked by people from low income groups. “Initially, online ticketing was restricted to the urban clientele. However, now we are making efforts to make e-ticketing services accessible to all,” said an IRCTC official. He added that IRCTC has more than 10 million registered users.
To tap the growing prosperity in rural markets, IRCTC is trying to enhance its reach in such areas. IRCTC, the official said, is therefore expanding its network of agents. The corporation at present has tie-ups with 81 organisations. These organisations have around 70,000 agents who provide consumers with e-ticketing facilities. Apart from this, IRCTC has also tied up with 11 state governments — including the governments of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi — who operate multi-utility kiosks for online ticketing services. In the last few months, several travel portals too have joined the bandwagon.
Said Yatra.com head (strategic sales) Mudit Khosla: “From selling 100 train tickets per day, we are now selling about 600 tickets a day. So the numbers are going up”. Travel portals charge a service fees from customers, which ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 20 per ticket over and above what IRCTC charges. IRCTC of course does not provide any commission to the travel portals.
In value terms IRCTC’s ticketing revenues have increased by a staggering 462 per cent over the last three years. From Rs 704.91 crore in 2006-07 and Rs 1744.68 crore in 2007-08, the corporation garnered Rs 3966.98 crore from sale of online tickets last fiscal. It plans to earn at least Rs 5000 crore from the sale of online tickets during this financial year.