Mumbai: If you’ve travelled by private bus to another city, you probably know the problems facing the fragmented bus industry in India—lack of transparency in ticket-pricing structures, inability to book return tickets and too many unconnected small booking agents.
In the past three years, some companies have been trying to turn this problem into a market opportunity with the help of the Internet. But Ahmedabad-based start-up Mantis Technologies Pvt. Ltd is doing it differently from the rest.
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While other services in the space such as Redbus.in run by Pilani Soft Labs Pvt. Ltd and Ticketvala.com by Travis Internet Pvt. Ltd are consumer-facing businesses that act as agents through which passengers can book tickets online, Mantis is working on a business-to-business model. It provides an online travel and ticketing management platform called Mantis Connect that links booking agents and bus operators.
“We want to link all the players in the (bus) industry to provide better transparency and control over operations,” says Aurvind Lama, co-founder of Mantis.
Mantis Connect allows agents to view real-time inventory of tickets, which Lama says is his firm’s USP. It means that when an agent books a ticket in Ahmedabad, he enters data, such as bus and seat number, into the system, which is updated instantly across terminals of all other agents using the platform.
It also allows bus operators to analyse the consolidated information in terms of passenger capacity, revenue channels and booking patterns and accordingly devise more efficient working models.
Mantis pegs the private bus industry in India to be worth Rs4,500 crore a year, less than one-third of the total Rs15,000 crore industry—the rest is state-owned bus services—and aims to start a business-to-consumer ticket business.
The firm follows the software as a service revenue model by providing back-end infrastructure to support the platform and charging a fee.
“So cost of ownership goes down drastically for operators (switching to online platforms),” says Lama. One of his clients, a bus operator in Gujarat who turned his offices online by buying computers and an Internet connection, recovered costs within a year, he claims.
Lama and his co-founder Parthasarathi Sinha, both self-professed?techies, started the business in Gujarat as students at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, but could only register the company a year later, as the institute did not allow them to officially run one while still at college.
Mantis is currently working with 35 operators, mostly in Gujarat. It has enabled three million transactions in the past two years and says, will break even in the next two months.