The Indian Railways has launched the pre announced SMS based ticketing service for masses. Launched by Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge, the ticketing service will start working form today. He said that the “service is being introduced in order to further improve the customer convenience and empower the common man who does not have access to internet and cannot afford to buy smart phones“.
He also said that mobile penetration in India has increased rapidly and more than 80 per cent people have mobile phones, the new system will be helpful in enabling booking of tickets by masses themselves. This SMS-based ticket service can be availed through two numbers – 139 and 5676714. However, in order to use this service users have to first register your mobile number with IRCTC and your bank. The bank then will provide a mobile money Identifier (MMId) and one-time password (OTP) for authorization of payment.
Surprisingly, there is no mention as to how one should register there number to IRCTC and our bank. I still went ahead and tried to book a train ticket from Hyderabad to Mumbai. In order to book a ticket a user has to send an SMS in the following format: BOOK [TrainNo][FromStn.Code][ToStn.Code] [TravelDate (DDMM)][Class][Passenger-Name][Age][M/F].
However, it might not be the case that every user knows the exact train no. and station code correctly which might hinder their next step. Since I was online already, I checked it out and wrote the required details. At this point I should have received a Transaction ID along with other details. But instead I got the message reading “Invalid keyword, please send correct keyword”. Hence, I could not go further with the booking. Moreover, I was charged Rs 3 per message which was another lowdown of the service.
Normally, after receiving the transaction ID, the user has to reply to the SMS with PAY followed by the transaction ID and the bank password (OTP). This ends the booking process and the amount is deducted from your bank account. On successful booking of ticket, a message will be sent to the user by IRCTC which will be sufficient as the valid travel document along with photo ID card in original.
I believe the process to book a ticket is very complicated and not easy to follow. It is not user friendly and requires more efforts from users end as he has to know all the details about the train before booking which might not always be the case. Also, I don’t know how many users will be comfortable to enroll to register with the bank and give details as mobile payment is still in its nascent stage. I feel the IRCTC SMS ticketing should be more responsive and definitely extra user friendly. Last week, MakeMyTrip rolled out an SMS based bus booking service which is easy to use!