Since Indian railways carries over 23 million passengers every day, train centered applications have been witnessing a sharp rise in usages. There are several apps which curate information on trains, and one of them is ConfirmTkt.
As the name suggests, it’s an online train ticket discovery and booking engine that lets you book confirm train tickets based on prediction it makes by combining historical data.
Sripad Vaidya, the co-founder, and COO of ConfirmTkt was a frequently traveller via trains, and he struggled to find a confirm booking information online as there was no such prediction platform during 2012-14.
The pain point had led Vaidya to hold several rounds of discussion with Dinesh Kumar Kotha (CEO and the other co-founder). Later, they came up with ConfirmTkt as a solution.
“I, along with Dinesh spent over 22 months to gather the data manually and then we entered the world of machine learning and other algorithms which can track historical data easily,” said Vaidya.
These algorithms are based on past ticketing trends. “We also use graph-based technology to offer alternative trains and routes in case the original search couldn’t get materialised,” added Vaidya.
ConfirmTkt provides real-time train tracking vis-a-vis status and speed, even in the offline mode. It uses the information about various train routes generated from mobile towers for the same.
Based out of Bengaluru, the startup claims to predict stats with over 90 per cent accuracy level. Currently, it predicts over 60,000 unique PNR and receives over 2,700 ticket booking on a daily basis on its platform and aims to reach the 10,000 mark by December.
Initially, ConfirmTkt only used to predict ticket and redirects users to IRCTC platform for booking. However, now it facilitates ticket bookings via its own platform.
How it engages users and retains them
This is the major challenge for any app in this segment, where they need to engage their users with intuitive UI/UX and other facilities such as offline, low data consumption, and battery saver modes.
It has been experienced that a frequent user of train tracking app always check his phone during the travel to get the exact information and forgot to close it from running in the background. The app consumes fewer data and power and provides all essential information via offline mode.
In the pre-booking experience, ConfirmTkt retains almost 28 per cent users for over 3 months. “In the travel industry, the average 3 months retention is 18 per cent only,” added Vaidya.
Besides train travel, it offers from bus/cab booking as well as food ordering. ConfirmTkt has tied up with Aha Taxi, Ola, and many food chains to provide the aforementioned services which enhance its user engagement.
Railyatri, TrainMan, and Ixigo compete with ConfirmTkt with a similar set of services, however, Vaidya differentiates itself by emphasising on pre-booking experience. According to him, ConfirmTKT is fundamentally different from others as it’s core competency lies in predicting a confirm ticket.
“Once we give you a prediction forecast, we never change it in the last hour and that’s why users rely on us,” added Vaidya.
Revenue model and traction
The company generates revenue from advertisement, ticket booking, food ordering, and bus booking.
Out of the total revenue, about 40 per cent hails from advertisement. From the rest 60 per cent, a larger share (45 per cent) comes from ticket booking.
So far, advertising has been the bread and butter for the company. Now, it focuses on transaction solely. Apart from ticket booking, the startup is eyeing to establish a revenue stream from hotel booking.
The startup claims to have 3.85 million app downloads and 2.53 million monthly active users. To gather more users on its platform, the app is planning for a vernacular play by including eight more Indian languages, apart from English, Hindi, and Telugu, on its platform by the next month.
The move aligns with its plan to tap users from non-metros. Further, it plans to launch voice-based search as well as full ticket booking experience for the same.
Betting on the alternate feature: ConfirmTkt secret sauce
As of now, ConfirmTKT has raised about $330K in investment from angel investors and Mumbai-based integrated incubator Venture Catalysts in early 2016 and is planning to raise a Series A round soon.
Meanwhile, competition such as Railyatri and Ixigo have already closed a Series B funding round.
Facing stiff competition from these players, ConfirmTkt is planning to extend its alternate feature
“We are planning to connect two long route trains with bus service or via any other train connecting those route. Besides, we are also exploring our train plus cab option to offer end to end service,” explained Vaidya.
Generating traffic has not been a challenge for apps that are targeting train travellers. Given that 23 million people travel every day through trains, bringing them to the app with key information is sort of a cakewalk. However, making such users transact is something that yet to figure out by all. Be it ixigo, Railyatri, ConfirmTkt, Trainman, and Whereismytrain.
In fact, such traffic is considered to have a very low purchasing power. Hence, monetisation is hard. Most of the users prefer IRCTC directly for booking train tickets and likely to leverage Oyo or well-known aggregator (such as goibibo and MakeMyTrip) to book hotels. This makes little room for utility apps to explore the transactional model.
Since airfare has been coming down, travellers in top 10 cities would prioritise it over train journey on long routes. This is another challenge that needs to be overcome by the likes of ConfirmTkt.
While avenue for revenue for such apps are largely dependent on advertising, it would be interesting to see how they break the shackle and rise beyond advertising. Will they be able to crack the transactional model? Let’s wait and watch 🙂