Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is awaiting further word from the Ministry of Railways on the fate of its plans for digital data monetisation. This comes amidst indications that the Ministry of Railways could possibly decide to withdraw the tender.

“As of now, there is no word from the Ministry on what has to be done. The e-tender is still open. The Ministry has to decide if IRCTC should go ahead with the plan. The PSU is also waiting to hear what has to be done,” said a source close to the development.

Privacy concerns

The IRCTC’s tender to appoint a consultant to explore digital monetisation of its data reservoir had raised concerns amongst experts and passengers over the privacy of their personal information. Lawyers had indicated that it could lead to potential lawsuits.

Amidst the public outcry, the Railway Ministry is understood to be reviewing the proposal and could look at postponing the move until the passage of the Data Protection Bill in Parliament.

As of now, there has been little interest in the e-tender, sources indicated, adding that they are waiting for the pre-bid meeting later this week to gauge interest in the project. The Railway PSU has had to extend the deadline for submitting bids from August 29 to September 8.

Eyeing additional income of ₹1,000 cr

However, another source noted that at present the tender is still at an initial stage where IRCTC is just looking to hire a consultant. “What is being explored is where IRCTC’s digital assets can be utilised for better decision making and improving the support system to bring ease to passengers. If it can earn more money out of this within the ambit of laws of the land, there should not be any concern,” the source noted.

IRCTC has recently floated a tender for appointing a consultant for digital monetisation, which it expects will help generate ₹1,000 crore in revenue. The proposal, which would require the consultant to study customer data including name, age, mobile number, gender, address, email ID, number of passengers, class of journey, mode of payment, login and password as well as behavioural data such as payment and booking mode, frequency of journey has fuelled concerns over data privacy.

According to its train ticketing statistics, IRCTC has a total user bases of 11.69 crore of which 8.36 crore are active users as well as daily new user registration of 50,987 on June 30, 2022.