Is IRCTC Losing Its Ground?

In 2001, IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) came into existence when Indian railway decided to detach its loss making catering services. Now, in July 2010, the news is coming like Indian Railway has decided to take over catering services from IRCTC in certain privileged trains due to bad quality of food. It makes me think, ‘Ohh! It wasn’t only web portal (irctc.co.in) that was bad, it was food too!’ I mean, Does IRCTC mission-statement says, ‘To make sure that your journey remains painful?’ I sound little skeptical but if you could have experienced the irctc.co.in while 8AM-9AM then certainly you will agree with me. I hope you would have learnt smartest way of booking IRCTC Tatkal ticket in my last article. Now, let’s learn some amazing facts about sluggish irctc.co.in.

Who developed and supports irctc.co.in website?

BroadVision Inc. developed irctc.co.in. Right now, web application is maintained by BroadVision Inc itself whereas the backend is taken care by Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS). The system(irctc.co.in) is linear and scalable.” says IRCTC deputy general manager of operations J Vinayan in an interview with The Financial Express [source]. By the way, have you read the text in bold, ‘scalable’? Can anybody agree on that? Well, I cannot.

Why does irctc.co.in fail during the peak hours?

Insufficient hardware or inefficient software or both of them could cause failure to any website with very high traffic. In case of irctc.co.in, according to Subir Agrawal, director – Consulting, BroadVision – Asia Pacific Region in an interview with Ciol [source],

“Bookings and enquiry request are 6-7 times higher during the peak hours than the rest of the day. So while the existing infrastructure is well equipped to handle the daylong traffic, it is the peak hour traffic that clogs servers. The best suit would be if we could get more 40-50 servers just for the peak hours to share the load, but none of the systems integrators today provide such facility on rent or any other ways.”

It is pretty straight, none will provide hardware infrastructure for two hours every day. But why does not IRCTC choose to buy servers permanently? Considering huge IRCTC revenue, it would be peanuts. Also, what other thing seems wrong is software. If certain patterns and best practices are not followed while developing software; it won’t be scalable and will fail after certain amount of traffic. Let’s have some comparisons, forget about Google or Facebook, Even Indian banking giant, HDFC Bank website has more traffic than IRCTC according to Alexa Ranking. But does it ever fail? No, A big NO. It means, solution to this problem is not mystery to the human race, it is quite solvable!

Irctc.co.in Statistics:

  • IRCTC revenue from online ticket sales has seen an increase of 462 per cent from three years ago. From INR 7.05 billion in 2006-2007 to INR 17.45 billion in 2007-2008, IRCTC got INR 39.67 billion(USD 854 million) in last year.
  • Average number of bookings done in a day is around 3 lakh, says Subir Agrawal.
  • IRCTC is 29th most crowded website in India according to Alexa. It accounts for over a third of the total e-commerce in India.

According to Rediff [source], Indian Railway is all set to launch its own ticket booking portal in coming November which will directly compete with irctc.co.in. IRCTC is about to lose 80% of its revenue as the catering services are taken back by railway and further move of launching such portal will be a fatal blow for IRCTC. Hoping for the robust and the efficient portal from Indian Railway, keep the fingers crossed!

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18 Comments

  1. Anudeep

    10.01.2010

    Excellent info Guarang Patel. I agree with your comments. I am trying to get the statistic on IRCTC bookings, as I am planning to file a Public Interest Litigation on IRCTC, which is to reduce the bank and IRCTC transaction charges.

    I feel, they should reduce the charges and help in increasing the online bookings. In turn, it helps in saving the world by avoiding driving down to railway station, reduce traffic…

    Where do I get the number of bookings data per day, revenue from adds…

    On the infrastructure problem, IRCTC should try “Cloud Computing”. If they levarage Cloud Computing, then they need not buy extra servers for peak times.

  2. Gaurang Patel

    10.06.2010

    Anudeep,
    I really appreciate the initiative that you are going to take.
    I think under ‘Right to information act’ you can avail various information from IRCTC only. Not sure though.

  3. Sanjay

    10.15.2010

    Good article. When someone says they need 40-50 servers for the site to work well, definitely there is a major problem with the people behind the project. One has to get behind the design & software components. It seems the software was never re-factored (expect changing UI components). The focus should be on improving the APIs otherwise no matter how many UIs or AJAX is brought, at the end the request / response will be pathetic. I have found most of my experience with the site failing after the payment – seems a common pattern across the site.

  4. Vijay

    11.02.2010

    Good write-up! In addition to these, I can see a “highly inefficient” captcha which makes it worst when you are in the final stage and hoping to win the fight for tickets. Dooh… the captcha again didn’t show and when refreshed with the provided link it is showing blank and the link is disabled now — you can not reload the image again.

    IRCTC, what the hell are you doing?

  5. Sushil

    11.04.2010

    I m gonna try firefox & quick book option as suggested .keeping fingures crossed !!!

  6. TOOFAN

    11.20.2010

    WHEN IRCTC EARN IN billionS OF RS THAN WHY DONT THEY BUY NEW SERVER ,THEY HAVE BAND AGENT ALSO IN PEEK HOURS THAN ALSO Service Unavailable error is shown
    IRCTC SHOULD REALY IMPROVE THE SITE AS SOON AS POSIBLE

  7. revanth

    01.16.2011

    IRCTC can move to cloud computing to tackle this issue. But as it is a new technology, it might not be readily available in INDIA but with cloud computing all this problems can be resolved.

  8. Rajat

    03.03.2011

    Friends,

    Bad news is that IRCTC has stopped quick book option from morning 8 AM to 9AM.

  9. Rajesh

    05.31.2011

    Very good write up. I also, think, is it a game plan of irctc with booking agents? so that booking agents can book tickets by the time, we log in and book? because after 2-3 minutes it shows waiting list….and I have no idea who got the tickets. If their servers are not good why cant they replace it and not a single authority is looking at it. So much of revenue, what they are doing with that.

  10. A Bhargava

    07.22.2011

    Good article. All said and done it appears that IRCTC does not have the will to solve real problems. They have taken the train travelers for granted.

  11. Vishnu

    01.27.2012

    Nice article, Now i know the idiots behind irctc portal

  12. Arun

    03.26.2012

    What does Subir Agrawal, director- thinks about himself, he is going to think so narrow about such a big organism like indian railway. these people are the burden for india. They never think about the future… Please look into the future and decide if things are to be taken lightly or not… I am also suffering because of the dead system called IRCTC….

  13. sab.fm

    05.02.2012

    irctc its too slow to book a ticket, if a Pregnant girl booking a ticket on irctc then she will get the access or ticket after the delivery that is for sure on peak time, why you maintaining such a crap server. it’s a huge profitable industry why government not taking any action on this

  14. Arjun

    05.22.2012

    The time I have spent online to book a to&fro ticket on irctc is ridiculous. To sum it up a good 5 hrs and i still havent got my return ticket booked. When it come to technology embedded in the Indian organization I can be rest assured that it is not intended to improve livehood a bit. ‘Wait’ is the mantra and we used to end up waiting back in the days in a queue, and now for the page to refresh. Walk up to one of the booking counters (which i am intending to do in a bit) and I will have my ticket booked faster. Indian Railway is a very profitable industry without any conviction, but the lack of support is primarily due to inadequate planning and commissioning.

  15. Vishal

    05.26.2012

    Same experience with me as well. I am trying to book tickets from Nagpur to Bangalore for my parents since last one week. Everyday I used to login at 7:30 AM keep everything ready, but…………………….no luck.

    Things are getting worst day by day and I am sure something is happening wrong in the backend. We are failing to buy a Tatkal ticket even by paying extra money. If agents sells you a Wait Listed that will still get confirmed. This is weird !!!

    I wish we could do something in this.

  16. Zoozoo

    10.03.2012

    BroadVision Inc. should be ashamed of themselves. Application itself is poorly developed with hardly any scalability. Technically they should have used CDN(Content Delivery Network) and Cloud computing.

  17. Suman

    11.22.2012

    Broadvision should not only be ashamed of themselves but should also be penalised for human harassment.

  18. Himanshu Saraswat

    03.26.2013

    Its very easy to complain about irctc website. but have you guys ever thought of the amount of load it is taking per day?? Today irctc is providing more than 5 lakhs bookings per day.. tell me one web based application in this whole world that is taking that much amount of load.. How often have you bothered to actually logout of the irctc site after you are done with your transaction?

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