DigitalOcean and Trainman – Modernizing India’s train journeys

Chugging through mountains, valleys, and flat plains; the railways has been crisscrossing India for over a century now. 13,000 trains traverse 65,000 kilometers to transport 23 million passengers daily. India’s ‘rail gaddi’ has continuously evolved to stay relevant to its yatris and enhance their convenience. As India’s largest employer, the railways is now on its way to becoming an integral part of Digital India. Some of  its new initiatives include partnerships with organizations such as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).  Around this time, India has also gained the distinction of being the world’s fastest-growing app market. To align and support this preference for mobile-based solutions among Indians, the railways is dishing out ‘app-based everything’ – from ticketing and catering to cleaning and parcel booking. But it’s not going the distance alone. Private sector companies are being encouraged to participate in rail projects. By harvesting the railways’ extensive database, many next-gen enterprises are now offering valuable services and real-time information at a traveler’s finger tips.

A couple of years back, Mr. Vineet Chirania was one of the few entrepreneurs to leverage this opportunity to provide app-based train solutions and launched an online web and mobile platform to address the gap in train ticket-related information. Called Trainman, the objective of the platform is to simplify and improve train travels. Over the years, the company has grown to become a one-stop shop for train-related bookings and information. From fast booking of train tickets to PNR status prediction and booking food and hotels, the company adds value through its layer of intelligence.

Trainman: Smartening travel

Through effective data analysis, Trainman offers a highly accurate prediction of waitlisted ticket confirmation. In fact, it pioneered this analysis and its algorithms offer the most accurate predictions. Given that train travelers often experience network connectivity issues during their journeys, the Trainman app provides a train’s live location even when there is no internet access. The app also provides travelers with information on tourist locations in India, new updates about Indian trains, an engaging forum to discuss any issue or query around railways, and multiple useful features. The user experience is top-notch and details about cancellation and booking are clearly stated adding to the user’s convenience.

What’s unique about Trainman is that it is bootstrapped. Led by Vineeth, the company has turned profitable and its mobile app on Google Play store has a rating of 4.5. However, being bootstrapped comes with the challenge of cost optimization. Trainman has always turned to cost-effectiveness and reliability to stay profitable and this is where DigitalOcean – a leading provider of cloud solutions – has proved valuable.

Today, Trainman has four lakh daily active users and five million app downloads. Through its tie-up with IRCTC, Trainman has grown to become a one-stop shop for train bookings and train-related information. Every wait-listed ticket is accompanied with data trends that predict the probability of the wait-list status getting converted to confirmed. As train travelers come from across India’s urban and rural locations, the Trainman app offers information in English and seven Indian regional languages. It handles almost 700,000 sessions/day by ensuring its user interface is friendly and important information about ticket bookings and cancellations is easily available.

Optimizing performance

By migrating its entire environment to DigitalOcean’s platform, Trainman has achieved high reliability and cost-effectiveness of its infrastructure. With four lakh active daily users, the Trainman platform ensures uptime is never impacted and data processing has minimal lags. Mr. Vineeth said that “DigitalOcean’s reliability, cost-effectiveness and automated alerts were some of the valuable advantages that were unavailable with other service providers.” In the initial days of Trainman, the company used Amazon Web Services and then moved to IBM Bluemix. However, issues in reliability and cost meant that Trainman needed a better partner. That’s when Mr. Vineeth’s acquaintances recommended DigitalOcean and in December 2018, 90 percent of Trainman’s technology portfolio migrated to DigitalOcean.

Mr. Vineeth went on to share that another plus for DigitalOcean is that it has data centers in India unlike a few  other cloud providers. As a result, requirements around data compliance and regulations are easily met. Also, DigitalOcean’s advanced features ensure that data of lakhs of customer credentials are stored securely.

This is a story of how two private sector companies are working with the public-sector behemoth of Indian railways to redefine the aam aadmi’s experiences. Such partnerships throw light on where India is heading in the future. The Indian Railways has the infrastructure and capital to open up opportunities in jobs and efficiencies. But incremental changes will take the railways a century to transform. Instead, railways will have to stall working like a slow gigantic institution and acquire the character of a large private corporation with a start-up’s mindset. Here is hoping that by 2020, Indian Railways will become a model for the world to follow.