How demonetisation is helping transform railway stations

The economy’s biggest gain from demonetisation is the speed at which e-transactions are increasing. They say that the biggest innovations take place during times of adversity and the Indian Railway is a fine example by using a situation to its advantage

The ‘demon of demonetisation’ or ‘demonetisation blues’ has become the nomenclature post demonetisation and reams have been written on its effect and also how it affected millions across and beyond the country. However, the rail behemoth is looking at the brighter side and a trickledown effect if one may call it to transform how passengers use the facility and is in the process of changing the way railway stations function in the country.

In what can be termed as a first time endeavour, Kacheguda Railway station in Hyderabad was transformed into a completely digitally enable station where a passenger right from parking his vehicle, buying a bottle of water, tickets, using the cloak and waiting rooms and making transactions could do with digitally.

All vendors from teas stall owners, fruit sellers, catering units, book stalls have been given PoS

This experiment is hardly 20 days old and the people are already warming up to the idea and 20 per cent of the transactions are digital. Buoyed by the success, the Indian Railway has decided to make all stations digitally accessible and has included the digitisation of railway stations across the country.

Tea Stalls, Fruit and Juice Centres, Catering Units, Book Stall, Dairy Parlour have been enabled with Point of Sale (PoS) machines.

In 2017-18, Indian Railways plans to make 25 important stations as ‘Digi-Pay’ stations. The Indian Railways has included the idea of ‘Digi-Pay stations in its business plan for the financial year which was released last week by the Minister of Railways.

The economy’s biggest gain from demonetisation is the speed at which e-transactions are increasing. They say that the biggest innovations take place during times of adversity and the Indian Railway is a fine example by using a situation to its advantage.

While pundits debate whether the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showing India’s third quarter GDP growth logged at 7% in December quarter could be taken seriously or whether other methodologies need to be assessed, there is no difference on issue that there is a spike in digital transactions.

The Indian railway runs 21,000 trains every day to transport 23 million passengers. If even 70 per cent of these passengers turn to cashless transactions, the benefits are huge. By next year, 25 stations in the country would be digital. The revenue from ticket booked through cashless means in reserved and unreserved segment has increased from 58% to 68% and 6% to 8% respectively post demonitisation.

The number of debit cards rose from 739 million to 818 million since October. The number of credit cards from 27 million to 29 million. The value of card transactions on PoS machines shot up more than 41 per cent from October till December.

Demonetisation blues have had their part to play and still does but what the Modi government has done in one single stroke is to open up a wide array of opportunities to do business. The Indian Railways has taken the opportunity. Will young entrepreneurs come up with ideas, there is a lot of opportunity for the willing.

Union Budget 2017: A push and a shove for Start-ups, Technology and Innovation could have done wonders

Overall I would give a thumbs up for the budget, however, due consideration towards the few ‘missing’ links could have made me happier.

Overall I would give a thumbs up for the budget, however, due consideration towards the few ‘missing’ links could have made me happier.

One page tax form, bringing down personal income tax by 5 per cent for a section of salaried class, trimming the corporate tax slab to 25 per cent for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has caught the imagination of a segment of the population in the Union Budget 2017-18 but for the startup and Tech Innovation world it has next to nothing.

Science & Technology, Innovation and Startups are the one who build the ‘future’ of the society. The investment in the mighty three is high and yield slow results, but once the results starts coming the impact is huge. Take an example of investment in space technology program few decades back, now India is among leaders in the world.

If there was a time ever for the startups to be given a push it is now, for one has witnessed a drop in startups, money drying up in venture capital and a few going back to taking up jobs. A clear policy on issues besieging the startup world would have given a spring it its feet as the verve that one witnessed in the startup sphere a few years ago has weaned a bit.

Clarity on three fronts namely; innovation, Science & Technology and startups is lacking in the budget. The trio can create a platform and leapfrog in the future. There is nothing much for the entrepreneurial eco-system in the budget.

What was expected in the budget was a fillip to the start-ups by way of clarity in rules and most importantly how to handle losses. Few start-ups are making profit and the tax holiday is valid to only those start-ups who are recognised by Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP).

That there is a world of talent out there waiting in the wings to fly with ideas is a foregone conclusion. Youngsters in their teens to 25-somethings are raring to go. If only the budget had something on the Angel tax, it could have done a world of good for the start-ups.

The innovation and startup ecosystem needs a push, handholding and direction. The small businesses will become competitive in the global market ie the MSME sector. Similarly, if there was a rethinking on issues plaguing the startup community such as taxes on early stage investment, ease of doing business and a more comprehensive long term plan for the community to grow, the 2017 budget would have boosted the morale.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem badly needs a push and that should precede with a robust long-term policy on innovation, Science & Technology and Startups. It is never too late; a meeting with all the stake holders on envisaging a plan is all that is needed. Anyone ready? I am.

(The article has been written by Nikhil Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, AP Innovation Society, Government of Andhra Pradesh. All the views expressed are personal)