“The Indian Railways is a […] never-before and hopefully a never-after world. It is the world’s largest e-commerce retailer, yet it runs a train network that is dirty, uncomfortable and far from modern by technological standards” says Rama Bijapurkar in her recent book “A Never-Before World: Tracking the Evolution of Consumer India” (2013).
But how come it is the largest e-commerce retailer globally? Well, that has to do with the consumers it serves. She mentions that also never before has the world seen so many people that are at the same time poor but not backward, because of the tech-connected world we live in. The bottom 40 per cent of Consumer India households are mobile-owning, text-messaging and even though they might not own gadgets to use the internet directly, they are digitally connected and e-enabled.
Hence they will book their tickets for the railways through certified agents or simply friends with internet access. And further services they can exercise on their own. E.g. if they are waitlisted, they can check their status of the ticket without a smart phone. Simply texting their PNR number and the number of the train is sufficient for a machine to text back the answers.