Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which manages the online rail ticketing for the Indian Railways, seems to have introduced a one-time registration process and made it mandatory for all users who intend to book train tickets through third party websites like Cleartrip, MakeMyTrip, Yatra and others, to have an IRCTC account before booking a train ticket online.

This can be seen as a security measure by IRCTC in order to prevent fraudulent train bookings, after restricting web service agents like Itz Cash Card, Suvidhaa to book Tatkal tickets online last year and blocking 4.6 Lakh User IDs and 71, 484 e-mail IDs which were involved in illegal and unethical practices while making e-ticket bookings last year. It had also introduced a new online ticketing system in order to filter out agents and allow only individual users to book tickets.

What Third Party Sites Are Doing

Both MakeMytrip and Cleartrip have added an extra step of IRCTC account registration during ticket booking and have released help guides to aid their customers. What’s interesting is that they have synchronized their accounts with the IRCTC account, so the user doesn’t have to remember the IRCTC ID, but an unregistered user will still have to enter an IRCTC ID each time. We couldn’t find any such measures on Yatra.

We are assuming that this process will help IRCTC to create a single database of all users who are booking tickets across third party sites, thus making it a bit easier for them to track fraudulent users.

Issues; Who’s Customer Is It? (Nikhil adds)

Some issues with the process:

– Indian Mobile Number needed: As a reader on the Cleartrip blog points out, an Indian mobile number is needed to complete the registration process. What of those who don’t have an Indian mobile number?

– Another ID to remember: users who aren’t registered with the Third Party service providers will have to remember their IRCTC ID.

– Activation issues: IRCTC may not be geared up for the activation: a reader on the Cleartrip blog also says that an email was received without an activation link in place.

At the core of this is a question that could be a political battle over ownership of the customer: is a person booking a railway ticket through MakeMyTrip their customer or that of IRCTC? These are online travel agents and if you don’t need an IRCTC ID to book through an offline travel agent, why should you need one for booking online?