Friday, October 7, 2011

Information Technology - Well used, Indian railways & Banking sector

Edmondson cardboard ticket
computerised - I-ticket
Any Science or development fructifies when it goes on to effect and simply our lives. We in India today talk so much about information technology be it as a career choice or in terms of e-governance or commerce all leading to a better a life, and many a times it is a doubt they have contributed significantly...

Two areas where the change and its effect has been felt widely are the Indian railways and the banking sector.
A change drastic and visible in my life span (so far). I have and remember having traveled on tickets which was a stub made of cardboard around four inches in length and maybe around one and half inches across(the term for them seems to be Cardboard Edmondson tickets). Times when reservation slips were different from the ticket. When ticket and reservation for connecting trains were essentially communicated by telex. Also a time when in many divisions (like int he east for sure,more so Howrah) the touts ruled the roost. Then the ticketing process got computerized in late 80s early 90s, the process was still a far cry from today. One could still not book a ticket that did not involve a station (either destination or origin) which was not same as the  division of the booking office i.e If one were in a booking office in Chennai - One could not book a ticket if the destination or the Origin did not fall in the southern railway. After four or five years we got to a stage where the whole process was computerised and you could book tickets between any two stations with out limitation in any computerised booking office. Then came the facility of the booking the ticket from the comfort of one's home or any place with access to the net - that saw the birth of what the railways called the I-ticket. One bought the ticket online and the ticket would be couriered to the passenger. From there to where we are today e-tickets, one not only booked the ticket online,but also printed the ticket oneself. All this in many ways in such a short time (around 20 years from the time they rolled a automated/computerised process). The experience is hugely different - (ask some one who had to book tickets to travel from lets say some where in south India to the northeast). Being some one who has a vague idea on how the airline industry across the globe struggled to move e-ticketing find the effort commendable.Is there not more they need to do, sure there is (the system still does not suggest connecting options, which could be a huge plus). Given their history am sure they would....

The Indian railways apart another sphere where I have personally experienced the difference and am happier for the changes is the banking sector. An era and time when for the smallest transaction one had to run to the bank and pretty much write off a fair bit of time to a single chore in the bank. Unless you were an HNI (high net worth individual - not sure if they had the classification then) or had some sort of clout.  Then came a time one could walk in to bank and be serviced by any vacant counter irrespective of the nature of transaction (not all banks did it).Today there are many of us who will not have visited their branch ever, the account is opened at the convenience of our homes or offices, hardly any transactions that one could not carry out sitting at one's system or maybe even the mobile. Cheque books for many is becoming redundant with electronic transfers, where the money  finds the beneficiary faster then paper traveling through the clearing house. Once in a while when certain eventualities like loss off credentials or such happens, and needs us to visit the branch - we see ourselves complaining bitterly. Yet this remains a sector which has used technology effectively and has changed significantly(for the better I would say) the way we transact.

There are other areas where we are seeing change - the travel and tourism industry for one has embraced e-commerce a fair bit in the last decade or so, we see bit happening in the shopping spectrum. We see technology being used to reach out and service customers better in various sectors with varying degrees of success.
The reason I picked railways and banking for special mention was that they are large bodies. Creating and managing  change in them are that much more difficult. Further they could be classified as essential services pretty much touching most of us, if not all of us and hence a change many of us have experienced in the last couple of decades or less.

Here I must mention the the travel and tourism industry by far has embraced technology and e-commerce in a large way. Changing the way we transact to fulfill our travel related requirements be it tickets or allied products and services. Even the relatively lower priced services like buses and cabs have taken to e-commerce and have been showing significant growth. Shopping, movies are jumping on to the bandwagon, though small at this moment.

PS: Guess all these strides are related to the progress we have made in telecommunications, and hence the sector deserves a mention. I have picked up organisations/sector that have transformed from the old world to new world, and not the ones who started off in the way we see them today

PS II: Read a blog which captured a similar essence - differentiating scientists working in pure sciences vs applied sciences


  1. fantastic anand.... super article. very thought provoking

    1. by adopting technology, banking is the forerunner who transformed themselves so much.

    their banking operation was limited to branch level, time because of the manual ledger. by putting computers and communication they made anywhere anytime banking.....a reality

    no other industry transformed themselves....

    2. yes railways did adopt IT and improved in areas of signals, ticketing, and administration.

    3. there is a thought in my mind... i know i have to think deep and wide.. however let me share my 'half boiled thought'

    railway tracks are there all across our country. still today heavy, trains and engines only run with the max speed of 100-120 km per hour. we should find a way to use this infrastructure to run sleek, stylish transport vehicles which should run a minimum 180 km per hour... (taking cue from Air suspension in automobiles)

  2. And latest from the Indian Railways - you just have to show the confirmation SMS you get on your mobile phone on booking a ticket - no print-outs.