I have always maintained that despite the travel industry being one of the most “active” with regard to players and products it’s also a space where “differentiation” is necessary but hard to come by. Every possible sector within Travel now has been covered with respect to website offerings , its going to get harder and harder.
I have been wanting to write a couple of thoughts on Online Bus reservation and specifically Redbus.in for a while now and whether the model , while unique, is really sustainable in the long run. I strongly believe that there is a distinct opportunity here to stand out if they play their cards right. The argument that millions of people in India use buses and hence the potential is great is not valid. The TG is actually more niche than that and will essentially be inter state and city travelers. Within this it will only be people above a certain income strata – if anyone is under the impression that a site like redbus will be able to compete with the likes of local buses , its not going to happen.
State transport buses (the biggest fleet) will not play a big role in this model. I see a site like Redbus essentially targeting or showcasing options from private operators only. If they can crack cities and states which are proactive on tourism , such as Kerala , Himachal it would be a big boost for the site. Pro active states in my opinion would want to reach out to as many travelers as possible , and being one of the only sites in the domain they should be looking at this.
I believe the biggest flow will come from short distance inter city /state travelers who
know the internet well enough to use this kind of a model. People who want to travel in premium buses like Volvo’s.Now these characteristics tend to shrink that TG down quite a bit doesn’t it? No fear , there is still a substantial base to play around with.
ijsid.wordpress.com has a similar post and raises a few “advantage-disadvantage” points on the whole domain which i want to take up as well
1. Buses dont stick to Schedules – Doesnt matter, the ones which dont or what he is talking about indirectly are basically local buses which as mentioned will not play a role in this model.
2. Buses cheaper – Sometimes but not always.
3. Entrance of Luxury Buses – agreed, its an advantage to the model.
4. Call center , delivery of tickets – agreed. very important, convenience will be big here.
What will definitely do harm is not having destination coverage. I was aghast at discovering that Redbus does not have options for Delhi to Shimla , Delhi to Chandigarh… this is pretty serious. These 2 sectors are very important from multiple perspectives – revenue and the fact that they are highly traveled and will always have takers. Shimla is a high footfall tourism destination whereas Chandigarh is like a satellite town for Delhi with visitors puring in and out with a peak on weekends. The 2 cities dont feature in the drop down destination list.I consider this nothing short of a blunder and i am pretty curious now to see what else has been left out as well.