Friday, September 26, 2008

(On)Line Maaro

One of the better things that have happened to our lives recently is the online ticket booking systems. I remember the days when booking a ticket meant waking up at 5 to stand in a line at the railway station, only to return empty-handed at 11 because the quota was filled. Of course, you could still buy as many "black" tickets as you wanted at the pan shop near the counters. From those dark days to the efficiency of anywhere, anytime booking, including specifying seat preference. We have come a long way indeed, at least in this department. The great thing is it applies not just to air and rail bookings but even buses now.

I recently booked with KSRTC and was surprised at how well the website was designed and functioning. The icing on the cake was a airline style seat map! This was such a contrast to the last time we booked, going to a KSRTC travel agent who spent 30 minutes on a dial-up connection just waiting for the page to render. And another 30 while he made mistakes and repeated the search.

Even the bus itself was quite comfortable, even if it did stop at vague food joints and showed the most boring films. Once you have the ticket print out, you just head to Majestic where the platforms are well-numbered and a well-mannered conductor assists you in boarding. The same applies to Airport shuttle, where one can book tickets on RedBus or ViaWorld (although for now the buses are so empty, don't bother with reservation!) and rest assured in the hands of timely service and well-mannered, good-humored, hindi-english-kannada speaking conductors.

The newly designed IRCTC offers a load of features for rail booking. It has minimized problem of searching for oddly named stations, though no software can help you detect that Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Junction is what you want, when looking for Kolhapur. I just wish they had a simpler interface for searching different classes and dates on the same page, instead of trying different combination as new search each time. What impressed me most was how effortlessly and quickly (2-3 days) they refunded the money for canceled tickets and failed transactions. They even allow you to ensure, say, a lower berth or not book a ticket at all. Adding a seat map would be the next big idea.

For airlines, I have already professed my love for IXIGO by adding their widget below my blog. This clutter-free site shows the final price, all inclusive, whereas many other travel sites confuse us by comparing basic fare only. Then they have a fast, easy interface to refine or modify the search. The best part is, clicking on the fare takes you to the airline website for payment. Ixigo is not an agent and does not collect any fee. You deal direct with the Airline for everything, which makes it hassle-free and cheaper in case of cancelations. I only wish they had a similar service for international flights soon, since comparing best itinerary (stating both total travel time AND total cost clearly) is still quite difficult. If anyone knows of an international flight price-finder from India, do comment and let me know.

On a different note, we recently used the Pune Corporation website for paying property tax. The transaction deducted money from my card but showed up as failed on the website. Sending a mail to the help-desk elicited a prompt response. Within 2 days, they confirmed that tax due was clear. Again, I was happy with not just the facility but even the prompt service.

These small steps go a long way in improving quality of life of the average Indian. More such initiatives will help so much in reducing faltu stress and eliminating corrupt middle-men.


Anonymous said...

Oops...left comment on wrong post. Great post. Thanks again for Ixigo!

Toonfactory said...

WOWWW....IRCTC Website is functioning properly finally...I have tried that site to book my railway tickets and almost every time the site used to hung before processing the transaction. None of my tickets (till date)were processed in one go...Let me try this time...
As far as Pune Corporation is concerned I think you were a winner of some sort of lucky draw..
"Ohh We Have Our LUCKY WINNER for this month lets clear his tax due in 48 Hours..."

Aloke said...

Thanks for your nice words about iXiGO. We do appreciate that you like our product. We are very busy building international search functionality and launching it pretty soon. Do register on our site to stay updated of our launch.

Best wishes,
Team iXiGO

chaos said...

I have been using IRCTC from long time, even when they used to deliver the ticket at your door steps (within 24 hours, at max 48) ... they have evolved not only in the ticketing, but also the catering (food) within the train also ...

Vidooshak said...

wow, when i expected someone to inform me about International flight comparison in comments, i didn't expect that to be IxiGo guys themselves. thanks for dropping by!
i look forward to an equally amazing international product from you (hint: do not use the Yahoo Travel template; it sucks. Use the Singapore Airlines results interface, MUCH better!)

@Chaos - yes, the food is rather good. on a recent travel, we packed parathas from home. the IRCTC food served to the berth across smelt so good, on way back we avoided dabba only to be able to order the "meals" in train. it was surprisingly yummy!!