The Maharashtra government recently told online ticketing sites not to charge a convenience fee over the price of the ticket for people who are booking online. The case is in the courts now. Similar moves have been made in the online travel space. The Supreme Court has banned travel agencies from collecting additional transaction fee from passengers. The government diktat in Maharashtra, a state which contributes to nearly 20% of box office collections, is hurting ticketing players. “From revenue standpoint, we have taken a big hit in Maharashtra,” Ashish Hemrajani told NextBigWhat in an interview earlier this month. The days of waiting in lines are over as peopleget used to online services and one can’t reverse the trend, he added. Edited excerpts.
Can you talk about the recent Government & Court decisions?
That will keep happening. These things happen in any country and in any environment. I have full faith in our judiciary. The only grouse is that it is a delayed justice delivery system, the Chief Justice of India has said that. It takes time but it is just and fair. Over a period of time, sense will prevail.
Can you imagine going back to standing in the line at Air India and Indian airlines counters and taking out tokens to buy tickets? You can’t revert the trend. You can’t go back. It is like the government telling you to go back. IRCTC is a government body. Maharashtra government bodies charge a convenience fee over the price of a ticket. Indian railways charges. I don’t understand. We charge a convenience fee on top of the ticket and it is transparent. It (the regulation) is a speed bump.
What is the way forward?
The matter is sub judice. It is with the Chief Justice of the Mumbai high court.
How much of an impact does it have on your business?
Maharashtra is hurting us big time. Honestly, I’m just continuing the service. From revenue standpoint, we have taken a big hit in the state. I should just shut it off because I’m losing money in Maharashtra by continuing the service. But I’m not doing so because we can’t let our users down. It is a service which they are used to. Imagine what will happen if the travel guys shut down online ticketing. It has become an essential service. We are not shutting purely because of that. You can’t turn back the tide.
How do you quantify this impact?
It is in crores. We are continuing to reason with the Government. We have gone to the court. The justice delivery system will take its time. But we are confident of this getting resolved. We are in compliance with all the laws.
What about other states?
Every other state is supportive. In fact some of the states are giving sops to run a service like that. There are states which have gone beyond the brief and said lets make it a completely paperless transaction. Today, the CISF allows you entry into the airport on the basis of an SMS. So what are we talking about? The government is talking about investments into the country, look at the amount of money the online companies are getting into the country. Without any fuss or noise. For example, while this whole Jet thing has been going on between governments, online retailers got that kind of money into the country. There is some sense of disproportion in the country.
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