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IntrCity SmartBus: Next Gen Travel Promise From RailYatri

Railyatri Intrcity SmartBus

In an exclusive interview, Coach Builders India - CBI talks to Manish Rathi, CEO and Co-Founder, RailYatri about the idea behind the concept as well as the dynamics of the bus market in India. 

The bus industry in India is rapidly changing. Sustainable economic development, rapid urbanisation and a growing middle-class with disposable income has resulted in a consumer base that desires nothing but the best in comfort and amenities. What was once a need based industry is now metamorphosing fast into an industry that is driven solely by aspirations.

To meet this growing on-demand economy, the bus industry in India has witnessed the foray of several start-ups and exceptional business models in the recent years. One of the most successful of them all is IntrCity SmartBus by RailYatri. An asset light model, IntrCity SmartBus guarantees an intuitive journey with modern amenities to ensure a one of a kind experience for passengers and fleet operators alike. 

Excerpts from the interview. . .


The IntrCity SmartBus seems like a very unique concept. Could you elaborate about it in details?

IntrCity SmartBus is India’s 1st Pan-India fleet of branded buses offering standardised set of services and features. You can call it the next gen way of bus travel. It’s smart and it’s safe. The key promise can be summarized as ‘Convenience’ and ‘Comfort’ and ‘Safety’.


We’ve looked at several pain points in a consumer’s bus travel experience very closely and tried to solve them in order of severity. Although there is a lot that can be done, at a concept level we are trying to organize the industry and provide some standardization in all the phases of a journey viz., planning, booking, boarding and the actual journey.


Tell me, how did you come up with the idea and the reasons fueling it.

In India, the number of intercity travelers by road and rail is estimated to be over 50 million daily, with a 65% overlap between bus and train routes. While trains have not seen any significant enhancement in their passenger-carrying capacity, buses have been growing and evolving at the regional level. There are more than 5,000 nationwide bus operators today. But there is a demand-side gap because the market is unorganised, and there is a trust deficit.


We also realised that interchangeability of modes of transport is extremely important for travelers, and wanted to enable that on RailYatri. So, essentially, if you are travelling intercity from Point A to B, and not have confirmed train tickets, RailYatri’s algorithms will suggest the best possible bus route to you as an alternate, allow you to purchase a ticket, choose a seat, and even send you a vehicle from its newly-launched IntrCity SmartBus fleet.

Railyatri Intrcity SmartBus

Tell us about the latest features and amenities that your IntrCity SmartBuses are equipped with.

All the buses carry a uniform external branding that’s vibrant while the interiors are warm, welcoming and pleasant. We have an on-board toilet that comes in very handy for female passengers, senior citizens and passengers with kids. This also reduces the number of pit-stops a bus needs to take. There is in-bus (BYOD) entertainment along with Wi-Fi, comfortable sleeper beds, neat and clean upholstery and blankets, mobile holders, mobile chargers, etc. All in all, our buses are equipped with all modern amenities that make long distance travel on bus easier and better.


On the softer experience – we have what we call in an on-time departure promise to ensure the bus leaves on time and reaches on-time. Our drivers and the crew are trained and we have also introduced Bus Captain for basic on-board assistance.


We have also launched air-conditioned waiting lounges to give a good pre-boarding/layover experience to the passengers with facilities like drinking water, coffee, toilets, booking counters, Wi-Fi, charging points and such. Such lounges are already operational and being widely used in Lucknow and Bangalore and we are coming up with more across cities.


Please elucidate on the safety features that Smart Buses feature for passengers.

Passenger safety is one of the foremost priorities and hence, our Smart Buses are equipped with CCTV monitoring and GPS for real time tracking. The command centre monitors all CCTV camera to monitor driver behaviour and check for unauthorized access inside the bus. Besides, using the GPS feed the command centre can also detect over speeding. Additionally, a bus captain keeps watch on every passenger’s safety and staff behaviour. Above and beyond all the preventive safety measures, all the passengers of IntrCity Smart Buses are covered with a handsome insurance policy of upto Rs.7 Lakhs.


Assuring a qualified and polite staff seems like an uphill task. How do you guarantee that?
It is definitely a challenge but therein lies the opportunity. We are investing immense resources and putting in major efforts to train the staff. We are also planning to improve their life style by ensuring benefits such as health insurance. They are being trained in communication skills, observing safety regulations, behaviour with women, importance of customer care, importance of good sleep and such. In the near future, we might introduce crowd sourced rating mechanism for drivers and incentivize them from good behaviour.


So the concept is female friendly too.

Absolutely! All the safety features we discussed above come in handy for female passengers. After all, every journey is about peace of mind -- of both the traveller and her well-wishers. Knowing that the bus is under surveillance and it can be tracked live is a good first step. Additionally, the staff is sensitized towards their behaviour with female travelers.


What mileage can fleet operators expect from this concept?

Honestly, there is a lot that the operators can look forward to in this partnership.


Bus operators in India often get pulled down by the ‘do-it-all’ entrepreneur syndrome which is typical for SMEs in India. In a typical scenario, an average operator cannot afford to think much beyond day to day operations to bring in the overall experience together.

This is where we come in. Within the IntrCity eco system, they can now focus on core operations and leave customer satisfaction and demand generation to us. Besides, they get a major facelift and all the benefits of a tech platform like marketing, tech support, customer support, timely pay outs, better automobile insurance, etc.

Railyatri Intrcity SmartBus Lounge

What future plans does IntrCity SmartBus has in the pipe line? Could you elaborate?

We are currently looking to expand on established routes and organize the sector before we start with new and routes. As of now, we already are serving over 50,000 travelers per months through our IntrCity SmartBus fleet, and expected to grow 5x this year. About 60 percent of wait-listed train passengers have moved seamlessly to buses. In the near future, we are expecting to impact about 97 percent of intercity travelers in India.

Also, by the end of this fiscal we are planning to run at least 300 buses in 70-80 high demand routes across 30 cities and targeting a fleet of about 2,000 buses in next two years.

The article originally appeared in Bus Coach India Magazine, November 2019. 

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