How Tech-Enabled Bus Service Providers Are Becoming a One-Stop Solution For On-the-Go Travellers
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Mobile penetration in fast-urbanizing centres outside of saturated metros and tier-I cities has grown multifold giving rise to a new consumer segment that is highly mobile native and digitally savvy. With this rapidly growing customer segment comes a burgeoning need for intercity travel between these urban centres and metros. The new-age Indian commuter is a frequent traveller for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional. She has a fast-rising disposable income albeit COVID-19 headwinds and expects a connected and smooth experience in almost all spheres of life be it food delivery, e-commerce, or travel and transportation.
There are three primary modes of intercity travel: bus, flight and train. Market studies say that national highways infrastructure is growing at 30km per day resulting in a vast network of short-haul routes connected via roadways. Rapid growth in road infrastructure (National Highways have grown at 21.44 per cent CAGR between 2016 and 2019) has connected 5,000-plus previously obscured PIN codes which resulted in more than 1,000 intercity routes that have faster travel time compared with train. Against this backdrop where buses appear to be the only affordable and flexible means of transport, the bus travel industry urgently needs a makeover to serve its savvy customers.
Enter the world of one-stop-solution to all short-haul intercity bus transportation needs. A service that enables online ticket booking, contactless payments, pre-booked meals, real-time updates, easily track-able, in-bus entertainment, Wi-Fi, trained staff along with punctuality, safety and comfort; in short, a reliable and connected bus travel experience. India's bus services have a massive underlying opportunity to deliver a long-overdue customer experience and operational efficiency. It is time for bus service providers to reimagine their service delivery model and start delivering it to earn customer trust and loyalty.
Technology can accelerate reliability in bus travel
Buying a bus ticket and then being subjected to unhygienic conditions, delays and discomfort are not what today’s on-the-go travellers expect. Bus travel experience is still menaced by noisy drivers and conductors, no washrooms, faulty lights, drunken and rash driving, etc. Building a tech-powered platform to solve all pain points along a customer’s journey is the need of the hour. CCTVs, speed sensors, data driven passenger selection are just a few of the means by which bus safety can be enhanced by technology. The pandemic has raised the bar on safety for everyone alike
Factors such as passenger demand forecasting, scheduling, frequency setting have a great impact on operational efficiencies. Using data analytics in real time will become a necessity to provide not only efficiencies but also seamless, personalized customer experience. Coupling customer empathy with service excellence will undoubtedly be the winning strategy, making bus travel the preferred choice for over short and medium-haul distances (200-600 Km).
Sooner than later, one must be agile and flexible for solving the real-time challenges and stay focussed and strong for the future. Of course, in a post COVID-19 world, maintaining the best practices to ensure the safety and hygiene of travellers is a must.