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Mind-mining with start-ups: Intrcity, an OYO for smart buses

Goutam Das     October 28, 2019

RailYatri, which started in 2014 as a railway information website, has diversified quite a bit over the years. From information, it became a transactions platform that helped with train tickets and food on trains. Bus bookings came next, and now 'smart buses'. In its smart bus model, the company follows an OYO model - while RailYatri is responsible for customer acquisition and owns the experience, it doesn't own the asset.

Business Today recently caught up with Manish Rathi, Co-Founder of RailYatri. The smart buses have a new brand, Intrcity. The idea behind the diversification, says Rathi, was simple. Around 50 million people in India travel daily and there aren't enough berths in trains to accommodate these many. By providing an experience closer to trains, more people can opt for buses for their inter-city journey, in the future. Here's how the company, which has a revenue run rate of $7 million, is changing the bus experience:

The smart bus: Yes, there is a lot of technology. For commuters, there is Wi-Fi. But tech goes beyond this. About 70 buses in Intrcity's network are tracked at a command centre. The speed of the bus is one parameter that is monitored. There are experiments to figure out whether the driver is drowsy - sensors collect bits of information and communicate it back to the command centre. Beyond technology, smart buses have toilets. That makes passengers more comfortable in opting for buses when it comes to long-haul journeys. Buses, traditionally, were inconvenient particularly to senior citizens.

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The lounge experience: Passengers never liked the waiting period. To catch a bus, they had to wait near a pre-identified pillar, the beginning of a flyover or any such landmark. The waiting is mostly open-air. Intrcity is trying to change this experience by creating lounges that look more like co-working centres. "The lounge service sounds like it's a luxury centre but that is not the intent. We are trying to create a place where a working professional will not mind spending two hours, like in an airport. It is Wi-Fi enabled," Rathi says. Currently, the company runs lounges in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Ahmedabad. Lounges will also come up in Delhi soon.

The OYO model: The company does not own the smart buses. It functions much like hotels start-up OYO. Intrcity owns the technology, the marketing, the experience. Bus operators own the asset and are responsible for running the bus to the standard defined by Intrcity. From 70, Rathi is targeting expanding to 300 smart buses by the middle of next year.

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