IRCTC hits a brainwave: Book tickets via SMSes

With the festive rush throwing up several complaints with the electronic train ticket booking system, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is in the process of developing a technology that will enable travellers to book tickets through text messages. They will no longer have to go through the payment gateways of banks, considered to be the biggest reason for delays in eticket-booking process.

Once developed, a traveller will be able to send text message to IRCTC and the payment for the ticket will be debited by the mobile phone operator in a preset arrangement with the traveller. The IRCTC clocks a sale of around 4.5 lakh ticket a day, making it one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world.

Many telecom operators have already started keeping small amounts of user's money as deposits for various transactions such as utility payments. IRCTC has decided to take this idea forward and is now planning to enter an arrangement with telecom companies.

"We are evaluating the technical feasibility. The utility of SMS ticketing is huge. It is not just the convenience of booking tickets with a few simple steps of sending text messages, but also simplifying the payment process for the user," said Rakesh Tandon, managing director of IRTC.

Officials estimate if the delay due to payment gateways are eliminated, the number of tickets booked every minute can double from the present 2000-odd tickets a minute.

IRCTC is already accepting Interbank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS) payments for tickets. In this system, the user, with his unique seven-digit mobile money identifier issued by the bank, can pay instantly from his mobile for a ticket. One either needs a dedicated application or it can be done through SMS. But the new system being worked out is even faster and the bank's role is further reduced.

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