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 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!