At a time when it is finding it hard to manage ever-increasing online booking of train tickets, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is planning to embrace general e-commerce from being an online travel agency (OTA) player.
As per the proposal, the IRCTC will sell books, footwear, furnishings and electronic items such as mobile phones, through its platform, said a Hindu Business Line report.
The corporation is already in talks with a few e-commerce players to develop and manage its platform, according to a top official.
A call to the IRCTC managing director RK Tandon went unanswered.
The corporation will follow the white-label model where the back-end jobs will be outsourced, while the front-end works will be owned by the IRCTC, similar to a model it followed when it diversified into hotel booking and flight ticket booking services.
With a registered user base of over 20 million and a12 million unique visitors a month, the IRCTC is one of the leading travel e-commerce sites.
Will it succeed?
There are charges that corporation's service is not up to the mark. Many a time users impatiently wait in front of their computers/mobile phones to book tickets online in peak hours, especially on Fridays and Sundays. The IRCTC needs to find a solution to manage the massive traffic the site gets every day before venturing into e-tail business.
Also, the government-run corporation is yet to work on the modalities of the new plan. It will find it tough to compete with a slew of existing e-commerce firms which are offering best quality services to their end customers. In the rail budget for 2013-14, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that it would enhance the current e-ticketing mechanism manifold to enable booking of about 7,200 tickets/minute, the new plan will come into effect only towards the end of the year. Tune into this space to see how this state-run government-backed organisation will take the e-commerce venture ahead.
(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)