What would you expect the country’s most visited travel portal, with 1.2 million daily page views, to do when it wants to enhance customer experience and increase traffic on its site? Make booking tickets on its site easier? Ensure bookings are completed faster? Increase capacity so that it can handle heavier traffic? Guess again!
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) figures customers who fume, rave and rant as the website is notorious for ‘hanging’ or crashing during peak hours --can be pacified by enticing them to do some retail therapy while they try for the umpteenth time to book the same set of tickets. The Public Sector Undertaking has tied up with a private player Yebhi.com and is hosting the latter on its home page. Visitors to the IRCTC site will be redirected to the Yebhi.com site if they click on the shopping banners from where they can buy shoes, clothes and other accessories at discounted prices. The IRCTC takes a commission for every item bought.
But why is it focusing on an online shopping microsite at a time when clients are increasingly complaining about the website loading very slowly and taking a long time to complete a booking? “Making payments while booking rail tickets using IRCTC website is difficult. It takes too much time to complete the process,” said Subhash Gupta, a railway activist. The website that generates 180 million transactions every year is the largest e-commerce site in the country focused on the train ticketing business. It also has air-ticketing services on its site.
When contacted, a senior official from IRCTC said they are in process of improving the website and justified the online shopping option on its home page. “Only 30-35 per cent people log on to our website to book tickets. The rest look for information regarding trains and their availability. They have free time on their hand, which we want to capitalize on,” said the official. “We launched the e-shopping segment only this week.
Our website is being upgraded and we are trying to improve its capacity,” said P Kundu, joint general manager, IRCTC. Sources said this was a desperate attempt by the IRCTC to increase revenues through the portal. Currently, a shopper is charged an additional Rs 75 delivery charges for orders below Rs 500, while shipping is free for orders above Rs 500. Payment can be done using net banking, credit or debit cards, apart from a Cash on Delivery (COD) option.