Preserver of century old customer service practices

If there is an award for preserving historic business practices and customer service methods I will recommend Indian Railways without hesitation.

Today I went to Egmore Railway station to send off my mother. There were multiple entry points to the platform, but the platform ticket counter was in the farthest place from Parking. After reaching the counter there was a long queue and it took me over 10 minutes to buy a Rs.3 Platform ticket that will give me rights to enter the station. As usual Indian Railways had just one counter for so many customers, no vending machines (I read in news they piloted a vending machine program and even a vending machine program Mobile SMS but withdrew them soon). The person in the counter followed what I suspect to be a British leftover way of issuing the tickets. He collected money (and gave change as needed), then picked up each ticket from storage one by one, affixed a rubber stamp to mark “MS” (indicating Egmore station), then another rubber stamp to mark today’s date and time on the back and then checked all of it before handing it over. He repeated this process over and over again for hundreds and hundreds each day. No change in the process for last 100 years old. I am sure no other business process in the world has been so untouched by Technology.

I was left furious on the inefficiency of this process & the enormous waste of people’s time, but then I was reminded this is Indian Railways – the preserver of History and British legacy. Probably this is how they ensure their political correctness by ensuring employment for everyone they have on their rolls.

Egmore Station Platform Tickets
Egmore Station Platform Tickets


  • Ranga

    A 180 degree phase-shift view!

    The ticket’s image is fascinating. Must be made of recycled paper-pulp.
    We as a nation are mostly conscious of not wasting anything. Even archaic processes and platform tickets!

    The process seems pretty archaic and anachronistic in today’s technology-mad time-scarce world.

    The fact that we have to wait, and that too – in front of an insignificant ticketing clerk and for an even more insignificant Rs.3/- platform ticket is irritating – no doubt! What can we do about it but cry?

    However, there are those who are worse off – critical patients wait in (and for) hospitals – life and death situations – even in the developed West.

    On the funnier side, There are a few positive things to the process too!
    1. No Need for power and related maintenance, backup UPS/Genset, contracts… given today’s power situation..
    2. No need for training – anyone can give these tickets..
    Automatic-machines need helpful volunteer operators as most people dont know how to use them! Mambalam railway station has one.. when you have some spare time, do go and watch. It is a fascinating sight.

    On a slightly more serious note, Compare this with a call center (bank, credit card, mobile service..), well.. they are supposed to be profit-oriented private enterprises… well, Change is not about mere technology and availability. It is about people – an attitude of service that emanates from the heart.

    We work so hard that some relaxation time is ordained. Except that it is not at a spa – it is at Egmore ticketing booth! I personally have realized, waiting can be very therapeutic. If we have the time and the mind to spend on some free therapy! So, let’s Relax! and unwind!


    • venkatarangan

      Ranga, that was a detailed commentary, appreciate your time for doing it.

      I enjoy waiting too, it gives you some “my” time to think, listen to a good music from your iPhone or simply observe people and learn something too. The point that irritates is where democratic government & public servants taking us (tax payers) for granted.

  • S Krupa Shankar

    Vending machines are there, but of late they are not working properly :-( The good news is that, if you have the prepaid card with you, you can go to the counter, complain about the machine, and would get the tickets immediately… no matter how long the queue is.