Thursday, 19 September 2013

Shopping on Wheels


It was a real surprise for me when I first noticed a government organization own an e-commerce store in India. The store with railway tracks in its background and the logo on the top will clearly shock many who are unaware of this. It is none another than IRCTC, a wing of the Indian Railways. They own an e-commerce store that sells anything from apparels to electronics, home d├ęcor to sports items. The store currently offers close to 30,000 products from 500 brands. It also offers free shipping on a purchase of or above Rs. 500


The IRCTC e-ticketing site contains a link to this store at the top. The moment I saw it, I began to imagine IRCTC trying to sell branded goods to passengers in trains just like the airlines companies do up in the air. However, to my delight I realized that this was not the case and it was  purely an e-commerce store. The store management was handed over to Yebhi.com, which handles both the user interface/design of the site along with the supply chain operations. This is one obvious reason for why the site more or less looks like Yebhi.com itself. Now how does Yebhi benefit from it? 
1) It gets its share of money for handling the look and feel and operations of the store
2) It gains access to the IRCTC database through which it can expand its user base immensely
                                                 

Though the site seems pretty good and well equipped, there are a few notable things here:

1) Though IRCTC is one of the most visited sites which assumes a daily footfall of 1.2 million visitors, it still carries with it loads of complaints such as the Server being down, issues of slow network, loss of money when the ticket was not booked and so on. Despite the kind of reputation it holds for many, the fact that they dared to venture into the click and mortar setup that has nothing to do with railways is shocking and perhaps a daring move

2)The site however requires you to re-create an account to shop here. You aren't allowed to login with your regular IRCTC login details

3)The site is more or less like any other e-commerce stores of today and hence does not really have a visible differentiator except for the fact that unlike many e-commerce stores that are suspected to pack up and leave somewhere down the lane, IRCTC's store may stand its ground longer.

4) Expect for the link to their site in the e-ticketing portal, the site is pretty much not advertised elsewhere. So, are we looking at a company that is planning to do business online without advertising much online?

5) The IRCTC store has no social presence at all. No login through social networking sites, no exclusive Facebook or Twitter pages. Perhaps they prefer preventing complaints on a public domain than having to confront them.

Nevertheless, the site is user friendly and has a simple design, so saves a lot of customer's time and effort. I would really hope the site improves over time and stands as a firm example to many more budding e-commerce players. 

You may visit the store here: http://www.shop.irctc.co.in
Info and Image Courtesy: Internet