Guest Lecture by Mr. Rohan Patnaik, Head – Inventory, Operations And Sales (IOS), Redbus

Red Bus

On 29th July ’14, Mr. Rohan Patniak, Head – Inventory, Operations and Sales (IOS), Redbus, arrived in TAPMI to introduce the students to the travelling e-commerce industry.

Mr. Patnaik began the session with a brief introduction of the e-commerce industry and why it is on a boom in the recent years. A few reasons can be increase in the number of internet users, number of devices compatible with internet facilities, acceptability of online payments and proliferation of internet. Moving on to the types of e-commerce transactions, he explained that the Indian e-commerce industry that began with simple classifieds like eBay and Naukri, today is dominated by players like IRCTC – 5 lakh transactions per day, followed by Redbus (50 to 60,000), MakeMyTrip (30 to 40,000) and so on in the travel segment.

He pointed out the fact that the online travelling business is very different from the other e-commerce segments as there are no look-and-feel challenges; customers specifically know what they want. Consumer experience is the key. Moving on, he talked about enablers of e-commerce namely device, payments, internet and demographic factors and how enablers evolved from 0 broadband connections just a few years back to 100-150 million today. However, India’s internet penetration is very less than that of China’s. But there is a scope of 5 fold growth in the next 5 years in the number of internet users in India.

Further in the session, he explained how consumers have moved from non-stickiness to stickiness i.e. consumers want a proper place to take out their cars and make payments as against cyber cafes. Today, credit cards have taken over the payments world except for mobile payments and online recharges. Other enablers cropped up recently are cash-on-delivery and net banking which saw an increase in its number of users from 1% in 2007 to 7% in 2011.

He concluded the session talking about challenges in the e-commerce travelling sector in India, grievance redressal mechanism, inventory holding challenges, taxation, permits, how easy is it to replicate such a business model and attract investors, rapid evolution in the business model, and shortage of trained man power, higher attrition and customer loyalty issues coupled with high acquisition costs.

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The session attracted a lot of applause from the student community as Redbus is an established player in a fairly new industry and it has coped up with the challenges in the industry quite interestingly. As we presented Mr. Patnaik a small token of appreciation for coming down to TAPMI and interacting with the students, we hope that he would be coming back for such sessions in future also.

Travelling, the “lean” way!!

Backpacker Planning

Often have I heard people say, “I love to travel and see places… but I don’t have the money right now; I will [travel], when I have it [the money]”.   Little do they know that when you finally have it, you either won’t have the time for a holiday or you will have other responsibilities to take care of.

This is where the very low budget or in management terms, the “lean travel” comes into the picture. The concept of lean travel is to travel at an unbelievably low budget and at the same time, still enjoy a comfortable journey. Much in the lines of the “lean” principle, it is to eliminate the wastage of resources (in this case, money) in areas where the customer (traveller) doesn’t find much value in. This is unlike the “hippie” styled travel where the comfort levels of travel are considerably lower.

Now, how is lean travel achieved? Where’s the catch?

Well, before I start, let me make a disclaimer that this style of travel might be suitable only for young, healthy, adventure seeking individuals who can forego some luxuries to make a large travel possible at a low cost!

If you have travelled a lot, you will agree that it is always the boarding & lodging expenses that form a considerable chunk of the total holiday travel cost. Lean travel tackles this cost first. Rule number one is to minimize the number of stays in your holiday travel plan. Plan your travel in such a way that you visit places of interest in the daytime and travel by night. In India, we are very well connected by the railways. They are not only cheap but also comfortable. There are air conditioned coaches in which you will get a comfortable night’s sleep. So, use them. However, there are a few further rules when you book your tickets in them. Use telescopic tickets rather than standalone tickets when you travel. This way, you can travel at a fourth of the cost that you pay otherwise. As far as possible, travel on trains whose destinations match up with yours. This will give you a peaceful night’s sleep especially if you are of the kind who can’t get up at odd hours.

Another way in which the travel cost can go up is when you plan very late. So plan well in advance. This prevents you from paying up tatkal charges and also the exorbitant prices that the airlines charge you when you buy the tickets late.

Well, that was all the theory part of it. Now the big question is, whether it can actually be done? To try it out, I went on a 21-day, 10,200km journey across India, covering 17 different cities in 14 states. The trip cost me just Rs.18,000/- including the travel, food, accommodation and even the shopping costs. Travel costs included my flight ticket, 14 rail tickets (mostly AC coaches), buses, ferry, etc. I had stayed only in 5 cities out of the 17 that I had been to; used home-stays rather than hotels; used public transports than hired ones. But the travel experience gained was unexplainably great. In all, it was one memorable 21 days that I have had in my life and which I got by spending so less.

Before I end, let me tell you that India is an unbelievably beautiful place. The lesser heard of places, especially in the North like Ladakh and the states in the North-East are a definite “must-see”; not to forget those beautiful places in India which you would have already heard of. And now, with the lean travel concept, “anyone can travel”.

Berty Thomas (Batch 2009-2011)