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Imagine being able to book bus tickets for a trip by using your cell phone! Well, redBus, a new mobile application, allows you to do just that.
Booking tickets online for a train trip or a movie has moved from being a fad of the tech crowd to becoming a common routine among the general public. It is hassle-free and saves the time you would have spent travelling to the ticket counter, not to mention standing in a queue. Mobile booking makes the entire process even more convenient, as it cuts down on the hassle of even having to use a PC. All you need is a cell phone.
ngPay transactions, the team says, offer security levels similar to ATM (automated teller machine) transactions. ngPay's Mobile Wallet is a tamper-proof wallet on your phone, Sharma claims. Details such as your bank account and credit card information are stored in an encrypted form. ngPay users have to make use of their unique 6-digit PIN to make a payment transaction, each time they use the facility. "Since this PIN number is not stored on the mobile handset, even if the handset is stolen, it does not put the user in a tight spot," explains Sharma. ngPay's 128-bit end-to-end financial grade security from the handset, through to the application servers, uses an innovative approach based on the concept of application layer security; this further tightens the security system. To top it all, ngPay stores the user's bank and card information safely only on its server.
And if you are concerned that your credit card will be debited, in case of transaction disruptions due to low battery charge on your phone or poor connectivity, Sharma adds that ngPay does not charge your credit card, unless the payment transaction is successfully completed. And it is with the support of ngPay that redBus is now able to provide an uninterrupted and successful mobile service to its customers.
The power of mobile commerce
According to Sharma, the cell phone today is as common as perhaps bus travel. Bus passengers usually plan their travel at the last minute, and therefore may not have an access at that point to an Internet equipped computer. It was this concept that led the team to introduce mobile booking for
Given the huge number of mobile subscribers in India, this system has immense potential. With mobile technology getting more robust every day and new standards coming to the market, the future, Sharma says, is going to be in mobile commerce.
Spurred by a 'sold out' sign
redBus, headquartered in Bangalore and with a presence in nine other cities, was founded by Phanindra Sharma, Charan Padamaraju (CTO) and Sudhakar Pasupunuri. Batch mates from BITS Pilani, the trio were placed with top IT MNCs in 2005, till they decided to start their venture.
"It was at the time of Diwali in 2005, when I had to run around for a bus ticket for a trip to my hometown, Hyderabad. But the tickets were sold out by the time I reached the travel agents. This was the beginning of the idea of a bus ticket booking service," says Sharma, on how redBus took shape. At this point of time, he also realised that the travel agents themselves did not have all the information pertaining to possible bus operators. As a result, customers were forced to take decisions based on limited information. Most of the travel agents were also unable to sell return bus tickets. All of which led Sharma to think about solving such issues by providing a common platform where customers could access data easily and make better decisions. Since the Internet was the best medium to deliver such services, he decided on e-commerce. It is a decision he has not regretted.
redBus is growing at the rate of 30 per cent each month. It raised its first round of funding from a venture capitalist (VC) firm, Seedfund, after six months of its launch. The firm has been incubated by TiE, Bangalore Chapter, and Sanjay Anandram, MD, Jumpstartup Fund, is its mentor.
The company today consists of 95 employees. It has tied up with 300 bus operators and has made the booking statistics of these operators available both on the Web and on mobile handsets. For the mobile offering, redBus has partnered with JiGrahak, a Bangalore-based company.
Booking a ticket for a successful future
Success, of course, has not come easy--the firm has had to face its share of challenges. Says Sharma, "When we started, it was difficult to convince bus operators about our idea." It took time to convince them, and now some have even launched their own websites.
The team has marked out other segments that are under-served today and plans to service them in the future. But, it is not yet ready to divulge any details. Sharma however points out that the company is not keen on starting any of the traditional offerings, like air and hotel bookings.
For now, he would rather take a bus ticket to success.