Interviews

‘We will keep looking at relevant entities for inorganic expansion’

Online mobility platform IntrCity SmartBus has earmarked 2025 to offer a fleet of 2,000 buses. Manish Rathi, CEO & Co-founder, IntrCity talks to Disha Shah Ghosh about, standardisation of fleet, travellers in India and further fund raising.

Q. How different is IntrCity compared to other bus aggregators in the online space?
Online bus travel has been limited to only online bus booking till 2019 when we launched IntrCity SmartBus in March 2019. IntrCity SmartBus is a mobility platform to power branded fleet of inter-city buses and provide standardised experience to travellers across the country.

Currently there are a few more tech-based branded inter-city buses in India and we are clearly ahead of the rest due to various reasons mentioned further. IntrCity SmartBus aims to standardise India’s intercity bus travel, providing travellers with a comfortable, safe and secure journey while ensuring that they arrive on time. The brand identified the pain points of travellers and was able to build a mobility platform that directly addressed those pain points, which has been the most important factor in IntrCity’s growth. IntrCity’s differentiation and being a leader can be understood from following factors:

• Mobility Technology platform powers its proprietary GDS platform, Partner Platform, Crew App for Captains, Agent Platform, IoT-based telematics and Consumer App. It is a comprehensive platform which covers every aspect of inter-city bus operations and ensures smooth journey experience for travellers besides ensuring efficient & profitable running of buses.
• Safety aspects like providing CCTV, WiFi-connected buses, real-time bus tracking, safe lounges for boarding.
• Personalised assistance– Our staff manages the entire service experience. We have Bus Captains on the bus, boarding staff for pre-boarding assistance and booking desk at lounges if you decide to walk-in directly.
• We also provide accidental and hospitalisation insurance covers for passengers worth INR 2 lakh for every seat.
• We have in-bus washrooms for safe, smooth and hygienic experience
• We also provides Wi-Fi connectivity and an automated traveller information system to notify the travellers about their journey
• All the Buses are constantly monitored from a 24X7 central command centre

Q. Shed some light on your inventory and measures to standardise your fleet pan India.
IntrCity is a technology-based mobility brand, and we operate a standardized fleet of inter-city buses on an asset-less model. We partner with bus operators to provide consumers the safe, secure and reliable travel experience. Further, these operators own the buses, have required permits & licences and hire a driver and add it to the SmartBus fleet. At present, we have tie-ups with 40+ operators with 200+ buses running as a part of SmartBus fleet. We’re aiming to achieve 2,000 buses by 2025.

IoT based telematics system installed on the buses provide data, images & videos and connect all buses real-time to our 24X7 command centre. The Connected SmartBus ensures that all buses follow pre-defined routes, stop at authorised points, on-board only booked travellers, take corrective action for unexpected events and eventually arrive on-time at the destination.

Apart from that, we monitor driver behaviour, fuel in and out, storage, bus speed, and so on. Bus operators get insights on managing fleet efficiently and optimise their costs. Our travellers can use the consumer app to follow the bus, get an estimated arrival time, pre-order food at the pit stop & have it ready on arrival and receive a wake-up call alert.

Q. What kind of investment are you planning for customer acquisition?
We firmly believe that mobility to travel from metros to Tier-II and III cities is bound to grow, which, in return, would give a boost to the economy and with this our major focus right now to go deeper into the heartland of India with expanding our services in these cities.

We started in North India and are very strong across UP, Punjab, Himachal and have started expanding in Rajasthan and Uttaranchal. We already have a strong presence in the South, connecting Tier-II and III cities cities like Vijayawada, Coimbatore, Ernakulam, Tirupati, Madurai, Visakhapatnam, Nagercoil, Madurai, Guntur and Pondicherry to Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad besides connectivity between the three metros. Our West market is growing rapidly across Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa besides connectivity with Southern states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
We believe in providing superior experience to ensure repeat behaviour from the first time travellers. Hence, we need to invest in customer acquisition for launching a new route or growing an existing route rapidly. We do this through a mix of branding campaigns across digital and OOH campaigns and convey the message about differentiated experience SmartBus service will provide.

Q. Any plans for strategic partners in the same space for increasing your customer base?
Our partnerships have largely been on building value in the inter-city travel eco-system with better boarding infrastructure, better buses available for bus operators or providing technology to make connected buses. We partnered with Daimler India to have special financial plans for bus operators buying Bharat Benz buses and pre-fitted these buses with IntrCity IoT telematics to ensure that these buses are immediately ready for being operational.
We acquired IoT telematics technology of GoldSeat to provide the technology to all the bus operators and hence create seamless way of making a normal bus, a Connected SmartBus.

Q. India has a huge untapped and unorganised budget traveller segment. How are you using technology to map this segment?
The budget traveller in India primarily travels for functional reasons like work, going back to college and hence their needs are also around seamless, safe, secure and punctual mode to travel with. The budget further restricts them to opt for either train or bus since cabs & flights are relatively expensive besides availability of airports in all cities. Since trains are constrained in supply, they end up not being available at a short notice and hence primarily it is left for inter-city buses to provide the solution to inter-city travellers. Hence we were clear that if technology can make inter-city bus the default choice for travellers, mobility will become seamless.

Our consumer applications include features such as ‘Track My Boarding Points System’, in which a customer is informed about where to stop, the nearest bus stop etc. In addition to this, the company has a 24×7 Command Center that produces real-time bus location, driving speed, and CCTV footage. The command centre also helps maintain a check on bus staff and driver behaviour within the bus.

For bus operators the built-in IoT helps to keep a check on cost savings on fuel, repairs, ensure authorised access to m-based QR tickets etc. In addition, all buses are equipped with onboard washrooms, Wi-Fi connectivity, automatic passenger information system and indoor infotainment system. It also installed GPS, a driver-enabled AI alert to track driver fatigue. Through the use of such statistics and tools, we at IntrCity have successfully paved the way for a leadership position in the industry, thus providing travellers with a safe, secure and reliable mode of travel while planning inter-city travel.

Q. Enlighten us about RailYatri. How does it benefit your IntrCity SmartBus proposition?
IntrCity, India’s leading inter-city mobility platform, offering both train and bus services to budget travellers. IntrCity has two platforms, IntrCity SmartBus and RailYatri. IntrCity SmartBus, the company’s flagship brand, provides safe, reliable, and standardised travel options along India’s long-distance routes, operating on 600+ routes. Also read pubg hack app. RailYatri, a companion brand, delivers comprehensive train travel information to over 14 million people monthly.

To analyse train ticket booking patterns and assist consumers in booking confirmed tickets, the RailYatri platform was designed using AI-powered prediction algorithms. The available rich data of intercity travel with the capability to build large tech-based platforms, helped the brand venture into the bus travel segment as well. Also read write for us tech blog. Hence, IntrCity SmartBus was developed as a RailYatri-like centralised system to connect long-distance buses and provide a standardised travel experience.

RailYatri platform helps IntrCity SmartBus with route related data for effective planning, provide branding to the travellers of the relevant routes, generate bookings from train travellers and help in growth of IntrCity consumer app. RailYatri users do not go dis-appointed when they see WL tickets, if it is also a IntrCity route, and end up getting the option to book IntrCity SmartBus.

Q. What kind of footprint do both your platforms enjoy? How are you planning to raise funds to scale operations?
India’s inter-city travel space comes with its own set of challenges for the growing working class. Considering the situation today, trains and buses contribute to more than 94 per cent of city-city travel. On the other hand, flights do not cover many areas (80% of the airlines offer services to only 6 metros). Also read picsart mod. RailYatri has monthly active user base (MAU) of around 14 million travellers while IntrCity SmartBus has been used by more than a million travellers till date. IntrCity SmartBus fleet of 200 buses have presence across North, South & West and we aim to reach 2,000 buses by 2025.

We have been backed so far by leading investors like Nandan Nilekani family fund, Omidyar Network, Samsung Venture, Blume Ventures, Helion ventures to name a few. We have raised a total of USD 30 million. We are in discussions to raise further funding and it will be announced when the same happens.

We will keep looking at relevant entities for inorganic expansion, primarily in the areas of analytics, bus GDS or in-bus technology.

 

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