If you have tried booking a railway ticket at the last minute you’ll know that getting a confirmed ticket is close to impossible. The Tatkal service only allows you to book a day before your travel, so your only option is to buy a wait-listed ticket and pray that it gets confirmed.
But this usually creates havoc with your travel plans as waiting tickets get confirmed only hours before the train time. So how do you know if it makes sense to buy the wait-listed ticket or try your luck with Tatkal or maybe alternate modes of transport?
The answer to that dilemma is ConfirmTkt, which predicts chances of train ticket confirmation based on historical trends.These predictions help users assess risks of booking a wait-listed ticket and plan the trip accordingly.
The brainchild of Sripad Vaidya and Dinesh Kumar Kotha, Confirmtkt is redefining the way the train tickets are booked in India. Apart from predictions, it also contributes to ticket discovery in trains by effective utilization of all the available quotas on a train.
How it all started?
Sripad and Dinesh worked together at IBM. “We were passionate to start on our own. The first thing that came to our mind was the problem we face daily with autos in Bangalore and developed an Android app, Meterup! (link) in 2011,” says Sripad. The app gives an estimate fare for autos so you can negotiate with auto drivers. However, it didn’t kickoff as the duo expected.
Meanwhile, they got stuck with an idea with trains. “Every time we tried to book a train ticket we would encounter the waiting list. And we used to analyze and predict if there were chances for our tickets to get confirmed and would accordingly book our tickets. We thought of building a software which does this instead of us doing it manually,” adds Dinesh. By late 2012, the duo had started writing software to accumulate data for analyzing viability of waiting tickets confirmation.
“We were able to accurately predict for most of the trains,” he adds.
Dinesh is an alumnus of SASTRA University, Thanjavur, an analytics guy and travel freak. Sripad[D1] is a core technical guy and a full stack developer who can work across technology/platforms. He graduated from NIT, Jamshedpur, in 2010.
Besides predicting confirmation chances of waiting ticket, the app also has effective notification mechanism which will notify the users when the ticket moves to the confirmed state. Users just enter check PNR status and subscribe for email notifications by just entering their email id.
The five-month-old startup’s Android app (link) has amassed over 43,000 downloads while its Windows version has around 21,00 users. “So far we have processed over 500K PNR inquiries, including 44,90,937 total inquiries regarding trains,” adds Dinesh. Importantly, 65% of its Android app (link) users are active with 60% return rate as far as total web traffic is concerned.
How it predicts the confirmation chances?
The intelligence behind the ConfirmTKT PNR predictions is very close to how humans think. “Humans predict and act on the future based on past experiences. Similarly, the ConfirmTkt algorithm analyses the past ticketing trends and predicts one’s ticket confirmation chances,” reveals Sripad. It also maintains confirmation thresholds for every train and predicts the ticket confirmation chances based on them.
Confirmation threshold is the highest limit/value beyond which the ticket confirmation chances are thin. It’s primarily dependent on factors like class of travel, past ticketing trends and month of travel among several others. ConfirmTKT availability feature shows the actual room available for booking even though the ticket is in waitlist. Algorithm interprets these numbers by comparing the current availability with the ticket confirmation thresholds.
Data pulling is a big challenge
“Getting the huge chunk of data which is not freely available to the public is one the biggest problems we face. There are many startups in this space which are trying to solve people’s problems, hence there is quite a bit of competition too,” says Dinesh.
The company has many interesting features lined up on the lines of ticket discovery. Besides Android, the startup’s iOS native application is under development and will be rolled out in the coming weeks. “We will be launching taxi bookings which will again change the way you search/book taxis. There are many other features which will come as a surprise to the users,” concludes Sripad.