If it takes off, this could be big. Over 9 billion passengers (not unique) use Indian railways in a year. With improving mobile and wi-fi connectivity along the rail networks, imagine a marketplace with vendors, buyers and information seekers! While the user interface could do with some tweaking, we think that this is a big opportunity.
In a quick Q&A, Manish Rathi, the Co-Founder angel backed Rail Yatri talks about the concept. Edited excerpts.
How did the idea come about?
We started with a basic question: Where is my train? In a world where people want to track couriers and envelops, it is only natural to be able to track a train. So we worked with the railways to create a solution called Trainenquiry.com about 1.5 years ago.
But people were asking more questions. Where exactly is my train? When is it likely to come? So we launched Rail Radar, a map based tracking system for Indian railways. This was launched in September.
The next step, is to give people other information around places.
Take for instance the Bangalore station. It’s got two entries and only someone who has been around knows that. Imagine being able to share this with other travelers who could benefit from this wisdom. It could be about food, taxi, great places near station and other ideas that help people make decisions. It is a crowd sourced platform.
What is the revenue model?
We are interested in getting the population connected to the network first. Right now it is ad supported but once we have enough people on the network, monetisation will evolve. The big picture is to create a platform for new business models.
Crowdsourcing means unstructured data, how do you make it searchable and easy to access?
For the first few months, we will limit the kind of information that is shared. Few more categories are on the way. The second is to limit the size of content, like on Twitter. People can share less than 200 characters. This is then editorially managed. If you see Twitter, you can use filters. We are following the same logic.
What is coming up?
Very soon, there is a mobile version of this will come out.
What is the product roadmap like?
We like to wait and learn. Our idea is to push information to you when you need it.
Location aware apps, and that too on trains will kill the battery in no time..
You are right. But there might be light at the end of the tunnel for this problem. We have done some initial tests on the new Android platform and it is very friendly with battery. The results so far are very good.