Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You’re reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
The Internet revolution in India is being led by smartphones. The widespread adoption and reach of smartphones has led to the evolution of distribution models across a variety of sectors; of which the ‘travel’ segment has undergone an irreversible metamorphosis.
Mobile application services have created new ecosystems in the travel segment which deliver quality service to consumers at competitive prices and giving an almost level playing field to all service providers, thereby promoting fair competition. The mobile applications score above the traditional services as they put transport options like a cab or a bus just seconds away from any customer at any hour of the day. They also readily offer customizations according to customer’s needs.
Some ways in which mobile application services are helping India travel smartly and efficiently are:
Ease of discovery: More than 80 per cent travel in the country happens in the tier II and III corridors. With increased smartphone penetration this segment has seen a massive surge in contribution of online bookings in the last couple of years. Earlier, almost all bookings were controlled by travel agents located in the towns or near bus terminals. In most cases, this cartel of agents enjoyed hefty commissions, promoted pilferage, and controlled entry of new players. Apart from burning a hole in the traveller’s wallet, this cartelization also deprived them of quality service options. But with the advent of smartphones and the apps, need for agents has been almost nullified and the surging commissions have also been minimized.
Price parity: Access of inventory on mobile for popular routes has removed information asymmetry around prices to a large extent. Travellers now get enough options to make comparison in price and in quality standards before making their decision. Data shows that the modern day traveller is now in a position to go through an array of different options before making a travel decision.
Supply creation: Route connections which seemed impossible and treacherous till recently, can now be mapped easily with modern GPS technology. Where customers allow the application-based cab and bus services to capture their data, it helps the new-age travel companies to map the routes for better and efficient travels. GPS also enables the security of riders the GPS-enabled cabs and buses are easily traceable.
Ease of boarding: If you have ever travelled using a bus, you would know that finding and boarding the vehicle can be a huge hassle. The modern app-based bus services have built extensive pre-boarding systems which have made locating and boarding breezy. The systems are so comprehensive that an AI generated chat can solve all traveller queries within the app itself without any human intervention. Frequent Whatsapp communications and regular mails make sure that customers are up to date with the necessary travelling schedule. Owing to such technological interventions it is extremely rare for these bus services to miss a pick-up while still keeping their average waiting time per stop to less than two minutes.
Environmental impact: The app-based services help us to lessen our overall carbon footprint. The efficiency and ease of the services have made it easier for people to choose hired services regularly over the option of owning a vehicle. Given the parking situations and rise in fossil fuels prices in the country, the former has become an attractive option.
End to end integration: What’s super exciting about all this is that the first and last mile connectivity issues have been solved across 80-plus cities in India. Long haul is the only unsolved piece in making multi modal, point-to-point connectivity a reality. Once long haul is incorporated too, travellers will be able to book a journey end-to-end, for example, from their home in city A to their workplace in city B with all legs of their journey curated and delivered just through their mobile phone. Soon we hope to live this reality.
Miles to go
We have not yet explored even one fifth of the potential the mobile applications can deliver and we are already witnessing a massive paradigm shift in the way people choose to travel. The environmental effects seem to be positive and with the application of modern technologies such as EVs, the future is bright. With more research and development (R&D), better interface, better network connectivity the real boom in the travel segment is yet to come.