By Anand Singh
New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Hundreds of rail passengers drop their travel plans as they are unable to book a confirmed ticket for long-distance travel, thus opening a business opportunity for luxury bus services on long-distance routes.
Manish Rathi, one of the founding members and CEO of IntrCity RailYatri, says they’ve launched IntrCity SmatBus services on more than 630 routes across the country by widening its presence from Amritsar to Ahmedabad, Varanasi to Vijayawada; Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Speaking about the need for luxury bus services across the country, Rathi told IANS, “Many people plan to travel but on a number of occasions they drop their programmes as they fail to get a confirmed rail ticket for long-distance journeys.”
“Thus IntrCity SmartBus services is meant to fill the gap with good facilities on board,” he said.
Rathi says people often don’t prefer bus services for long distances since many buses lack basics such as toilets, leg room and sleeping berths.
“So keeping in mind the demands of passengers, we came up with the idea of the smart buses with facilities such as toilets, wider seats, proper sleeping berths, mobile charging points and internet services through WiFi,” Rathi said.
Rathi, who is a graduate in production engineering from VJTI Mumbai and has a post-graduate degree in computer science from the Western Michigan University, said that idea of the launching such bus services was to make inter-city travel more comfortable for passengers.
He explained that a proper integrated platform was an important thing and that was the reason why they launched Smart bus services along with RailYatri as they had dealt with the train bookings earlier.
With an experience of more than 20 years, Rathi has brought his insight and knowledge of operations, strong technical knowledge and data flow to good use in creating the IntrCity App and website. Rathi says travel in India is growing at the rate of eight per cent every year.
“And if travel is increasing in the country, railways services cannot be expanded but road services can be expanded. Even government initiatives in the last few years have helped us since highways have been developed. So travellers over a period of time will have to be dependent more and more on roadways,” he explains.
“Thus we created smart buses, so that it matches the facilities of a train. And to deal with complaints of not having proper platforms or bus stop, RailYatri launched SmartBus lounges at several cities with proper facilities,” Rathi said.
Rathi says bus lounges have been launched so that passengers feel safe, even if they have to board the bus late in the night or early in the morning.
“The bus lounges of the IntrCity RailYatri are well-designed with proper facilities for the passengers so that they don’t need to go anywhere else for any kind of services,” Rathi stated.
He said that currently IntrCity RailYatri has a fleet of over 130-135 buses and is covering about 800 towns across the country.
He said that through IntrCity about 15-20 people per bus have been employed with SmartBus, which includes bus captains, booking agents and maintenance people.
When asked about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rathi said it was a difficult time, but they coped with it. “We chose the time to build it up with improvements in our services and also made changes in technology. The Covid-19 pandemic provided time to us and go back and improve things that were going wrong.”
He said that currently the turnover of the company is currently Rs 140 crore annually.
Rathi says the company is following all standard operating procedures laid down by the government.
“We are checking the temperature of the passengers who are boarding our buses. And we also maintain proper data of passengers for future communication. If any case of Covid-19 is reported in any of the passengers, it will be easier for us to do contact tracing.”
Rathi said bus captains and other staff are tested for Covid-19 on a routine basis and they’ve stopped providing blankets and bedsheets to passengers.
IntrCity RailYatri runs on 630-plus routes across India includes more than 300 routes in the north, primarily connecting prominent cities in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan with Delhi.
According to IntrCity RailYatri, there are 270-plus active routes in south India which connect tier two and tier three cities like Vijaywada, Coimabatore, Ernakulam, Tirupati, Madurai, Vishakapatnam, Nagercoil, Guntur and Pondicherry to Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.
The company has small presence in west India with only 60-plus routes but is growing rapidly across Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The IntrCity Railyatri platform currently attracts more than one lakh travellers every month and recently it crossed a loyal base of more than four lakh travellers who take their buses frequently.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)