IRCTC (www.irctc.co.in) and Customer (Citizen) Experience


It is written several times by several people on pathetic performance of Indian Railways online ticket booking site www.irctc.co.in. Still nothing stops me in writing this blog post as I believe there is lot more can be done by Government to make the basic facility of online ticket booking experience better.

The fundamental issue to the problem is capacity (number of seats available in the trains) not able to meet the demand (millions of reservations). Unless the fundamental issue is solved by effective planning and execution by Indian Railways over long time, the frustration with online reservation portal www.irctc.co.in can never be resolved. But knowing the fact that in long term, we are all dead, what is it government can do in short term to alleviate the citizen’s concerns?

I have penned down few of those things here….

Facilitate offline booking in peak load without forcing people to stand in virtual queue

The site so far to my knowledge is not PCI complaint and this stops the website from storing customer credit card information. Making the site PCI complaint can facilitate customers to store their credit cards to do offline booking without users waiting for response  from payment gateway / booking engine standing in the virtual queue. The continuous retries only make the situation worse.

All www.irctc.co.in has to do is to facilitate storing the customer ticket booking request (from date, to date, train selection, passenger details etc), do the booking offline with stored Credit Card info and send a confirmation mail after booking. This will improve the Customer Experience of people who are today subjected to hassle during peak loads (Tatkal, Festival Seasons, Vacations etc)

For TATKAL booking too people should be able to schedule an offline booking request and IRCTC can execute this in an efficient manner as per the sequence of registration of these requests in the back-end than spoiling the performance of the whole site and bringing down the CX.

Go for Elastic Cloud using Industry leading Platform As A Service (PaaS) vendors like Amazon

IRCTC should go for elastic cloud similar to one offered by AWS than trying to manage the whole IT infrastructure by itself. Here we are taking about Indian Railways train tickets where the demand is subjected to serious fluctuations due to multiple factors. There is no meaning in investing in hardware for peak load capacity (couple of hours) and pay for it 24 X 7. It makes sense to go with elastic cloud backed-up by vendor like Amazon who can scale to IRCTC’s needs on-demand basis and facilitate Pay-Per use model rather than a CAPEX / OPEX intensive model of maintain all hardware / software infrastructure by themselves.

Hook the web reservation system directly to PRS

Scrap the one more additional layer of database at IRCTC and hook the web-channel directly to PRS (Passenger Reservation System – The backbone of Railways ticket booking). By hooking directly to PRS the unnecessary overheads / bottlenecks on IRCTC can be avoided as the PRS is proven to scale for millions of transactions. I know this means a lot in terms of modifying the existing PRS but that is what Government have to do if you intend to create a true Citizen Experience.

Government to scrap the monopoly of http://www.irctc.co.in

Scrap the monopoly of IRCTC and facilitate vendors like makemytrip / flipkart / Cleartrip etc to invest and hook directly to PRS than going via the intermediary IRCTC. I believe the monopoly is one of the root causes of all these issues….

IRCTC, Please focus only on train ticket booking

IRCTC has to keep the focus on one and only on train ticket booking as there is lot more to do. Just be in the business of web booking for train tickets and not to waste their investments and engineering resources in trying to become an ecommerce vendor / web marketing channel. There are 100s of people there to do that. Invest your precious resources in train ticket booking only…….

For all those the above makes sense spread the news 🙂

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18 thoughts on “IRCTC (www.irctc.co.in) and Customer (Citizen) Experience

  1. I dont think cloud will work considering this is part of govt. Storing payment data makes absolute sense but why wud they even be bothered to fasten user experience? Seats are limited demand is too high infra is less hence there isn’t much of a biz case.

    • Karthick,

      Cloud is very much happening cutting across sectors. The link below shares details on some of the US federal government sites running in AWS
      http://aws.amazon.com/federal/. I guess it is a question of willingness of government to leverage these new deployment models.

      There is very much a strong business case here. There are people willing to pay Rs 100 as service charge instead of Rs 10 if there is a difference in experience. This will translate to few millions in annual revenues that could definitely be used for causes of national importance ….

  2. Cloud is definitely the solution to handle large volumes. The reservation system itself needs to be re-engineered to for higher I/O ops. Not sure about storing the the payment data considering the amount of security breaches that happens on any given day. I would definitely not prefer Amazon as this is public. With the kind of infrastructure that may have, it should go for a private cloud to address High availability, Higher I/O ops, Live migration for any new deployment etc.. If they dont want to manage the infra they can go for a colo setup.

  3. Venky – Your second suggestion of elastic cloud should solve all problems. But you think the authorities dont know that?

  4. Pingback: IRCTC (www.irctc.co.in) and Customer (Citizen) Experience | CXM 101: Customer Experience Management
  5. All good suggestions. Wish atleast some can come to fruition.On the last point, irctc was established primarily as catering and tourism corporation. Ticket booking is a business it entered much later.

  6. First of all , congrats for an article to think ahead while people like us just complain . Some of the my thought flow , i had ..

    Offline Booking – But what is the surety of getting a ticket ? This can work for a Retail system where the number of items in general has a stock in Inventory , but not in a competing for resource environment ( like , compare this for bidding ) .

    Amazon Cloud – Are they using a full scale up architecture here ? Amazon can work , but security is an issue ( atleast perceptions ) . Does Amazon have facility to buy per daypart ?

    PRS – Why do they have one more layer of database ? Can u throw some light on that ?

    IRCTC focus – Not sure if i agree to that . If technology is going to drive what im going to sell , i don’t think it would work well . How does the focus on the ecommerence make the site less effective ?

    • Sir, My feedbacks are below

      Offline response / Asynchronous response has no guarantee and that holds good in today’s situation too. But with offline / Asynchronous response the benefit is to avoid queuing up the system bringing down the performance affecting the entire user experience

      On Amazon, it falls under the offering of Platform As A Service and the application has to be deployed / ported over there. The platform is proven for scalability. Yes amazon has facility to pay per use basis

      The need for one more database is due to reasons IRCTC is a separate organization and it needs it own database to run the online operation

      This is the only mandated Organization from Govt of India to sell e-tickets and they have to focus on the same. If it is not a monopoly, then it doesn’t matter.

      Hope it clarifies.

  7. Scrap the monopoly is very key here.
    Offline booking is good idea, it will solve most of the problem. Will it affect the people standing in the queue? Are there separate quota?
    There are many misinformation about EC2 around the tech folks.First, EC2 is not known for it’s performance for the reasons we know. Second, once you tie with EC2, You are not transferable or transfer is a costly affair with respect to money and time. The real advantage is per hour billing and instant provisioning. I dont think it is the need of an hour.

    • Mohan, I am not an expert in EC2 to accept or reject your statements but with our minimal expertise I don’t see portability an issue in future if a need arises as long as you haven’t designed your application in a way to get locked in to some proprietary Ec2 features. The natural temptations to use features that could potentially lock you should be avoided.

      On performance, apart from global client list they boast in Indian context redbus.in runs in EC2 and undoubtly offers superior performance. My reference to EC2 in general is an example but it could be any other elastic cloud offered by other Global Majors like Oracle, IBM etc.

  8. Building the PCI-DSS compliance for storing card holder data can be a monumental task for IRCTC, not to forget the stringent rules and constant audits which are needed beyond that. Also considering the numbers of scams our country is hit with, this might not be in our interest :). This IRCTC issue is something which has always perplexed me and I have always tried thinking of a solution, whenever I do not manage to land tickets 🙂 When it comes to offline booking, I have a few thoughts. Not PCI, but ECS. Yeah ECS. With ECS we authorize one institution(banks etc) to have our accounts debited on a particular date. What if this could be extended to IRCTC?. So we are not talking about IRCTC having to store card information/passwords etc., but simply instructing our bank to allow an electronic clearing, whenever there is a request from IRCTC on a booking initiated by us (token id). I am sure with ECS, our banks would not be sharing any credentials with other banks/merchants. I am not an expert at this, but may be there are similar challenges with this approach too.

    I know offline, momentarily, does help with better user experience, but offline or online, you eventually still have to wait for your ticket or “no ticket”. And if offline is not performant, we could even land into more issues. Imagine, not knowing where your offline request is, cause at least with Online, you know its not happening with this one and you can switch to another train or simply say chuck it…and move to a Redbus or a air-travel website…

    The other thing, which could help performance probably, is to make the search/read only sections of the website hit a different database than the actual booking one. I am not sure if this is being done or not, but it could help. Obviously keep the two db’s in sync.

  9. Pingback: IRCTC (www.irctc.co.in) and Customer (Citizen) Experience | blogscrmit
  10. sometimes service not available. the refund for cancelled tickets are done properly.this should be streamlined. the refund should be made within a stipulated time . in my case there more than20 refund cases pending. there is failed settlement. if it is done correctly. what is the procedure to claim refund if even settlement is continued. i presume after some time it iscredited to iunclaimed account there should be some procedure for eraly settlement of refund of canccelled ticktsi will be thankful if email
    id is provided to to contact for the failed settlements

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