Twenty-six-year-old Anand Purohit is not looking for a job any more. He says he has found a profitable vocation. This resident of the tiny town of Akot, in Maharashtra, was not keen on joining his father’s kirana shop and hotel business. “I wanted to break out on my own, earn for myself and do something different.”

Ditto the case with 31-year-old Gunjeeta Tiwari Bhatt, who had been working as an accountant for five years in Uttarakhand. When she married and moved to Delhi, she wanted to look after her child and also try her hand at entrepreneurship. “I manage to look after my one-year-old and run my independent business from home,” she says gleefully.

Both Purohit and Bhatt are part of a new breed of entrepreneurs created this year, thanks to the travel app RailYatrti. As ticketing agents for the app, authorised by the Railways, they earn ₹40,000-50,000 a month.

On any given day, the RailYatri mobile app has around 300 or so ticketing agents answering customers’ queries, helping them book tickets, confirm and re-book their journeys, and assisting with refunds on the massive Indian Railways network across the country.

All in one place

A third-party mobile app, RailYatri provides every kind of railway-related information, including train cancellations, route change, delayed start, important hotspots such as railway accident sites, visibility during fog and congestion on routes. But for services like ticket booking or queries on refunds, passengers are routed to the ticket agents via the app.

So, how does the app work? From the app installed on your mobile phone, you are routed to a ticket agent, who answers queries and handles the online booking. For those who find reservations tedious and complicated, the app is a convenient solution. It’s almost like how you book a cab on Uber or Ola. The difference here is that you have a human interface handling your travel requirements. Payments can be through money wallets, net banking, and debit and credit cards.

Besides handling all enquiries regarding train routes, distances, fares and refunds, the ticketing agent also suggests the best options for confirmed reservations. “We simplify train travel as much as possible,” says 42-year-old Deepak Suri from Bareilly. Known to be one of the most successful RailYatri entrepreneurs, he says he was about to close down his railway reservation agency when the mobile app appeared two years ago.

Today, he has eight employees to handle calls routed through the RailYatri app. With 100-200 phone calls for ticket bookings a day, he makes a monthly sale of ₹70-80 lakh. “Above all, the technology ensures that I get timely payment for my sales — no more do I have to work on credit.”

Sitting in Bareilly, Suri serves customers all over the country. “Requests come from Kolkata, Gorakhpur, Benares, Puri, Mumbai, Nashik — you name it.” The rail reservation business he set up 10 years ago had substantial traffic until it took a massive hit with the advent of cybercafés and online booking. Now he is back in profit with RailYatri.

Customer queries

And what is the most asked question by passengers? Purohit, who has employed two people this year, says ticket confirmations seem to be their main worry. “Through the app, which uses machine learning, I am able to give them the best solution.” RailYatri uses predictive analytics to zero in on wait-listed and quota-specific tickets with the best chance of confirmation.

“Refunds is another area where customers need help,” says Bhatt, who initially trained for a few days at the RailYatri headquarters in Noida.

RailYatri was started two years ago when technology buffs got together “to remove the black box that shrouds information regarding Indian Railways”. Today, the app has grown to include food and gift delivery at stations. And with its user base growing, the field is opening up for more Purohits and Bhatts to become part of the journey.