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Why Has IRCTC Launched Windows 8 & Windows Phone App?

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched an official Windows Phone and Windows app. Users can down the app for free from the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store.

While we do not have a Windows Phone device or a Windows 8 machine to test the app, from the Windows Phone store description it appears that the app allows users to book ticket, check reservation status, train schedules, train routes, availability of tickets, cancellations, booking history, recent history, favorites, ability to add passengers as contact, among others. For Windows 8 and RT tablets, it also supports live notifications.

Why Windows platform?

Having said that, we don’t understand why IRCTC chose to launch its app on Windows platform first. A mobile app on Windows phone platform in the Indian market hardly makes sense considering that Android operating system is more widely used here. Besides, how many users have actually upgraded to Windows 8 platform? Microsoft’s RT tablets have already failed to gain any user traction. In July 2013, Microsoft announced a $900 million Surface RT write down.

As expected one cannot book tickets through the app between 8am and 12pm & between 11.30pm and 12.30am. IRCTC had shifted the opening of Tatkal bookings from 8 am to 10 am in July 2012, in a bid to increase the public access to e-ticketing and facilitate load balancing on the IRCTC server. It has also restricted ticket booking through agents between 8am to 12 pm. One cannot book tickets on the IRCTC mobile site between 8 am to 12 pm as well.

It’s not clear why IRCTC restricts one to book tickets from mobile and app during that time. The only reason that comes to our mind is that its server cannot handle the load. However in May 2013, IRCTC had upgraded its website which can support bookings of more than 4.15 lakh e-tickets daily. Prior to this, IRCTC claims to have handled 3.67 lakhs e-tickets per day. The website can currently handle 2000 tickets per minute and claims that in future it plans to upgrade the website to handle 7200 tickets per minute.

IRCTC developments

Credit where it’s due. IRCTC has been increasing its server capabilities, diversifying its business, and adopting new technology. In July 2013, it had launched an SMS based and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) based ticket booking service starting July 1, 2013. In July 2012, it had integrated payments using the Interbank Mobile Payments Service, as per an email sent out by the company. IMPS allows real time payments between individuals.

Value Added Service (VAS) provider, Spice Digital had launched a B2B travel and tourism solution called Spice Safar for travel agents, as a part of Spice’s retail initiatives. Spice launched this platform with an Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) partnership where Safar act as its principal agent to carry out IRCTC’s e-ticket booking services in the country.

In August 2013, its e-commerce venture had gone live at shop.irctc.co.in. In July 2013, IRCTC had selected Yebhi.com to manage its E-commerce platform.

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