How Bus Travel is Reshaping the Future of Mobility

How Bus Travel is Reshaping the Future of Mobility

Manish Rathi, Co-Founder & CEO, IntrCity SmartBus, 0

A double master's degree holder from Western Michigan University, Manish possesses over 26 years of diverse industry experience under his belt. He co-founded IntrCity in 2011 with a vision to address the growing demand for innovative mobility solutions in today's modern era.

In a recent interaction with CEO Insights, Manish shared his insights on the current bus travel landscape in India, emerging trends, recent tech advancements and many other aspects. Below are a few excerpts from the exclusive interview –

How are consumer preferences changing lately in terms of road or train travel?
Although people love traveling by train and have been doing so for a long time now, we are seeing a significant change in their travel habits lately. With last minute travel becoming a very common affair among consumers in recent times, not only are trains a tad uncomfortable for sudden travel plans, but the availability of berths in the trains at the end moment is a major concern among travelers. This becomes an even more critical concern for people traveling on business purpose, students or patients seeking quick medical treatment for their health conditions. As a result, an increasing number of people are now opting for bus travel due to the comfort that the new age buses offer and the easy availability of bus tickets even at the last moment.

Additionally, the rapid infrastructure development that we are witnessing in the recent times in terms of roads and highway construction has significantly reduced the journey times for bus travel, which is yet another key factor which is driving commuters' preference towards bus travel. Bus travel fares have significantly changed, especially when looking at it from door to door. When it comes to train tickets, bus fares are now more affordable. Due to their affordability, buses are becoming more and more popular among frequent travelers, a trend that has not gone ignored.

Throw some light on the key challenges bus operators are currently facing in recent times.
While the bus transport industry grapples with numerous challenges, the foremost challenge for most of the companies in the industry is to offer exceptional travel experience at reasonable price. Given that almost 90 percent of the long distance bus journeys in India happen at night, customer safety is another tough nut to crack for many bus operators. Further, a major challenge that most bus operators face today is deciding the pricing of their seats by accurately predicting the demand. By analyzing the information gathered from numerous data points such as online searches, train bookings and many others, our algorithm can now precisely predict the
demand for buses, enabling the bus operators to accordingly vary their prices. This way, technology has been a true enabler for the bus travel companies to streamline and optimize their end-to-end processes in recent times.

In what ways are bus operators leveraging latest tech advancements to offer enhanced customer experiences?
While the travel industry has been using technology for a long time now, of late, companies are more focused on leveraging modern day technologies to simplify various processes around bus travel such as ticket booking, query management, real time bus tracking or customer support and enhance the travelers' experience. Since the business owners are nowhere in touch with the customers and only the bus drivers or cleaners take care of the customers during their travel journey, there is a lack of visibility within the bus travel sector. To solve this, we have connected our entire fleet of buses to cloud, which has enabled us to view the buses during travel and even track information about their speed, location, vibration, sound and many other aspects in real time. This data provides us with proper insights on how the customer's travel experience was enabling the bus operators to keep track of their buses and make any repairs or maintenance works if necessary.

Technology has been a true enabler for the bus travel companies to streamline and optimize their end-to-end processes in recent times.

How are bus operators catering to diverse safety, comfort, and hygiene concerns for passengers?
Today, most of the bus operators prioritize customers' safety and have thus installed CCTV cameras in all the buses. Also, all buses are now fitted with IoT devices or sensors through which the bus operators are able to continuously monitor the speed of the buses, their travel routes and many other safety related aspects. Additionally, aiming to create a strong USP for themselves in the market and offer top-notch comfort to the passengers, many bus operators are now installing washrooms within the buses itself. Further, since people have become increasingly cautious about hygiene when they travel especially post the COVID pandemic, most bus operators have made it a norm to not only clean the bus interiors, but also change the bed sheets and pillows after every trip without fail.

What does the future hold for transport and mobility sectors in India?
Going forward, with the travel times between places becomes smaller due to rapid infrastructure development people will also start traveling more often than ever before. However, keeping in mind the criticality of the current environmental crisis, there is a lot to be done from the governments and the regulatory bodies to encourage shared mobility across the country. In terms of technology, I expect the integration of facial recognition and AI technologies into the CCTV cameras within all buses to help law personnel in case any safety related incidents occur.