IRCTC’s chat-bot chugs successfully on a better revenue track

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on January 11, 2019 Published on January 11, 2019

CoRover, a two-year-old start-up running the chat-bot services on the IRCTC website, is turning the conventional company-client relationship by not only providing it free, but actually paying the railway PSU to offer its services.

It has reasons to do so. Being part of the India’s largest railways booking platform that books 7-8 lakh tickets per day has helped the start-up rake in more advertising revenue than its Founder and CEO Ankush Sabharwal expected initially.

CoRover has acquired rights to place advertisements in the chatbox “AskDisha” that pops up on the IRCTC website and the space right below the box. This advertising space has been booked by the start-up in all e-devices used to book online tickets.

“To provide the chat-bot service, the start-up had made a minimum commitment of a certain amount to pay IRCTC, on which it already earned multi-folds, (and) will pay a part of earnings with IRCTC,” Sabharwal said.

He claims there have already been 10,000 queries to advertise with ChatBot (AskDISHA) which include players such as Amazon, RedBus, ICICI, Google.

“Unlike in other platforms, say Facebook, there is no possibility of changing the content in AskDisha where users can’t post their comments, so advertisers are assured of brand safety,” he added. Brand safety basically means protecting advertisers against inappropriate content. For instance, in social media, there could be car advertisements appearing next to a discussion on accident-and it is publicly visible to all.

On top, all IRCTC users can pay online, which means advertisers can target online paying users, apart from getting to know them better.

In case of AskDisha, the chat-bot enables consumers to ask questions, give feedbacks and ideas to IRCTC. It had started with around 250 responses three months ago (October 2018) and has been adding 10-30 questions to its bank everyday based on the new questions asked by IRCTC users. Today, CoRover has over 1,000 responses for various queries. Also, AskDisha handles 10,000 questions concurrently, and 1.6 lakh questions a day.

Most of these concern refunds, cancellation of partial tickets, login to website and Tatkal booking. When Disha doesn’t have answers, it redirects questions to the right place in IRCTC, and ensures that the response is added to its ever-growing question bank. After a text-based offering, the start-up wants to make Disha voice-enabled and multilingual.

After IRCTC, CoRover has bagged Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation as client. PwC, Gartner, Kochi Metro Rail Corporation are in different stages of talk to be the start-up’s client. Also, Amazon is giving CoRover more credits to pay for using its cloud —Amazon Web Service.

Published on January 11, 2019

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