Travelling hassle-free in a public transport bus after reserving tickets online or through a mobile phone may seem a luxury in many parts of India but it has been a pleasant reality in Bangalore since the last six years. The reason is: AWATAR introduced by KSRTC.
AWATAR (Any Where Any Time Advanced Reservation) is a web-based passenger reservation system introduced by KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) in 2006 to facilitate the general public to book their bus tickets on KSRTC through e-booking and mobile phones. Today, AWATAR caters not only to KSRTC but also to other state transport undertakings in Karnataka such as NWKRTC (North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation) and NEKRTC (North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation). It covers about 3000 services and books about 25000 seats every day. More than 600 booking counters have been established, besides counters of booking at Bangalore One, Karnataka One and the popular online travel agency Flightraja.com, now known as via.com. Bangalore One and Karnataka One are projects started by the Government of Karnataka which provide to the residents of Bangalore and Karnataka respectively all Government to Citizen (G2C) and Government to Business (G2B) one-stop services in an efficient, reliable, transparent and integrated manner.
The average reservation revenue through AWATAR has now touched
र6 million during normal season and र7.5-10.35 million during peak season. More than 1.6 million users have registered with AWATAR including those residing in other countries. The reservation of seats through AWATAR has been highly encouraging, and accounts for nearly 20% of total reservations and 35% of total KSRTC revenue. KSRTC won the Golden Peacock Innovative Product/Service Award-2010 for implementation of AWATAR. AWATAR also won for KSRTC the 2009-2010 National Award for e-Governance for “Best usage of Information and Communication Technology by PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings).”
Prior to AWATAR, reserving a seat in KSRTC bus was at best an uncomfortable experience, as is at present with many state transport bus corporations in the country. Passengers had to stand in long queues at the booking counters, tender exact money and collect paper tickets. Tickets were available for advance booking only seven days in advance. Sometimes unscrupulous employees would create artificial scarcity of tickets to sell the tickets at a premium. On its part, KSRTC had to maintain big registers for keeping a track of the issued tickets and spend a lot of money on stationery for the printing of tickets. The corporation also faced difficulty in reconciliation of the revenue generated from reservation and its apportionment for the services operated by the different units located all over the state. Earlier efforts at computerisation of ticket reservations were carried out with the help of the then available hardware and software without concrete backend solutions.
The system was an ORACLE based client server passenger seat reservation system which could be used only at the ticketing and franchisee counters where P2P connectivity was available. Thus reservations made were bus-station specific. Further, passengers did not have the facility to book return tickets. Booking through internet in online mode and other handheld devices was not possible. The application was static with not much scope for expansion, and it used to frequently break down.
To arrive at a solution to the problems it faced, KSRTC constituted a high level technical committee consisting of experts from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Satellite Research Organisation (ISRO), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bangalore University, BMS college of Engineering and Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The committee made a technical evaluation of the various bids received for the development of AWATAR. Besides this, the committee also took an independent technical evaluation from Backend Bangalore Pvt Ltd, an associate of International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore (IIITB). The contract was ultimately awarded to Bangalore based Radiant Infosystems. A team of senior officers and field officers from the KSRTC shared domain knowledge with the software development team of the company for preparing application requirement specifications. A team of Electronic Data Processing (EDP) officers from KSRTC supervised the development of the application at its different stages.
The objective of AWATAR is “Delivery of Passenger Reservation Services with certainty and speed with features that act as differentiators and propellers for growth, helping KSRTC to increase its capacity utilisation and revenues”. The vision of this system is to become the “choice transport corporation” of the public that delivers the solutions, services and technologies to obtain the capabilities for reservation through web and provide commuters accurate, easily accessible and speedy services.
AWATAR has been designed on the JAVA platform, keeping in mind the above vision and objectives of the KSRTC. The JAVA platform allows enterprise-scale computing which is ideal for applications such as Passenger Reservation System (PRS) which also require db2 for backend processing. It is a web-based application with a flexible and yet powerful functionality which features an extremely scalable architecture with long life. Easy-to-use with comfortable navigation, it generates about 200 forms with more than 1500 functionalities. The application displays the various bus routes available on a sector-wise basis for ease of booking. It generates complex reports including online reports specific to different payment gateways and allows for flexible & multiple type fare generation. It can track customer booking history, a feature helpful to both the passengers as well as the corporation. The application provides for E-ticketing, franchisee and mobile phone booking facilities.