Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indian Railways

Sana akhtar | IIM S

How many times have we cursed the Indian railways for their poor service and invariably delayed trains? How many times have we frowned at the tobacco stains on the platforms and the stink rising from the garbage on the tracks? How many times have we wondered if the railways could ever match their foreign counterparts?

The Indian Railways despite all odds still manages to be the largest rail network in Asia and second worldwide. This 150 year old institution has seen some major improvements in the recent past. Their initiative to join the internet bandwagon to facilitate online ticket reservations has indeed made life easier for a large part of the population. Providing a reservation system that efficiently serves more than half a million people every day was no easy task, but the Indian Railways have managed to pull it off remarkably well. In addition, the station enquiries and Interactive Voice Systems have been successfully in use in a number of stations.

Until a decade ago, however, things were quite different. The man behind the successful transformation of the Indian Railways from an ailing, nearly bankrupt sector to a profit making organisation, the former Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, became the darling of the masses. He was invited to renowned institutes like ISB, Stanford and Harvard to deliver managerial lessons. According to Lalu, he saw the railways as a commercial enterprise and not a social welfare institution and it was this vision that helped him take the railways to new heights.

The Commonwealth Games in India saw the Railways in a new avatar. Ogilvy came up with a refreshing campaign projecting the Indian Railways in a new light- that of being a responsive organization with a human face. The TVC which ends with the catchphrase- “Desh ka Mel-Bhartiya Rail”, shows that the organisation connects people, places and hearts. The ad appeals to the entire nation and is a welcome change coming from a PSU.

Branding of the Indian Railways was taken a step further when the Railways flagged off their first branded train named after Kurkure, owned by Pepsi. The railways decided to brand the trains and give them advertising space on the coach board and the train’s body and rake in profit. The success of the ‘Kurkure Express’ has inspired them to extend this marketing initiative to more number of trains.

The Indian Railways have also been instrumental in promoting tourism in the country. They have developed niche products and have created opportunities to travel in India at the desired level of luxury or economy. Besides promoting luxury trains like ‘Palace on Wheels’, ‘Deccan Odyssey’ and ‘Golden Chariot’ the railways are a lso in the process of establishing world class stations and opening new routes to popular destinations. Trains like the ‘Bharat Darshan’ also enable the average income person to travel in comfort

The Indian Railways have indeed created a brand for themselves but they have to take it further from here. With a little more focus on hygiene and infrastructure and cooperation from the people the Indian Railways will soon be able to match their foreign counterparts.


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