By: Manish Verma
We discussed how far we’ve come. Now let’s talk about the way ahead. HRTC (Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation) introduced a new fleet of hi-tech buses in Himachal way back in 1999-2000. These buses had TC engines and modified interiors, including comfortable seats and larger windows. These changes forced others to improve their services. But since then, much hasn’t changed. In fact other’s like Haryana Roadways have taken the lead by providing better service and adopting better managerial practices.
Figuring out the problems in the system is not difficult. Every time I travel, I end up thinking that until when we’ll be thought of as just another kind of consignment to be transported on buses build on chassis meant for trucks. I feel sad when instead of doing anything to improve their service, they try to cut cost by reducing the number of employees or removing the conductors which hurts every employee’s moral, irrespective of the sector they are working in. Let’s take up one by one, what HRTC can do to improve its service and reputation.
What’s your experience?
Business or lack of it comes from the behavior or the choices a customer makes. In HRTC’s case, a passenger, and the quality of product of the service provider. When we are offering a service like transportation, we are basically selling an experience and it’s this experience, which will bring those customers back to us. For this, the first thing is keeping a tap on customer’s pulse. It in itself requires lot of research and surveys.
Anybody cares for my feedback?
The present feedback system is lethargic. One way to get feedback instantaneously is by giving questionnaires to the passengers and collecting them within the journey (where ever possible). Best suggestion can be awarded later. Additional data can be obtained to determine peak passenger traffic times, days, weeks and months. Besides getting a first hand account from the passenger, it also instils confidence in the passenger that the service provider cares for you and values your feedback.
What else can you give me?
We don’t have much choice in pricing of services. The only way to attract customers is by adding value to the product. To make them appealing, the design of buses should be modified. I wonder why always a sarkari bus has to look like a sarkari bus. Nobody can deny that aesthetics do play an important role in influencing consumer choices.
Are we travelling in boxes?
These buses usually have poor workmanship, to add to this, the combination of green-yellow interiors, broken or missing window latches and untidiness makes journey unpleasant. Bus body manufacturing is definitely not the core strength of HRTC; they should opt for factory built coaches that have better appearance and ergonomic design. There should be a separate fleet of such high capacity buses, meant only for inter state routes and these should be run during peak passenger traffic timings.
Presently there are three categories of buses by HRTC; The so called hi-tech (ordinary) bus, the deluxe buses which charge double the fare and Volvo AC coaches which charges almost three times the ordinary fare.
Please make me comfortable
Now, I believe that there is a huge untapped market constituting of people like me, who definitely don’t want to get wrecked in an ordinary bus, but can’t afford the luxury of a deluxe or Volvo. But I would be more then happy to pay an additional Rs 50-70 for a semi-deluxe kind of bus which provides me just the facilities for a comfortable journey. I am not demanding luxury but just the things that make a journey comfortable and I am willing to pay a reasonable price for that.
Where do I keep my luggage?
While travelling, the two basic things that a customer wants are Comfort and economy. The first thing that I always notice is that the bus looks very congested and the aisle is filled with all the suitcases and bags causing difficulty in passenger movement. For this, separate luggage space should be provided under the side body or a dickey in back of such buses.
My back aches…
Instead of crafting the buses on a truck chassis, should have air shock absorbers, which provide cushion from bumpy roads. It doesn’t cost much to modify a bus accordingly. The ordinary seats should be replaced with ergonomically designed push back seats. But I feel that even the Volvo buses too are not designed ergonomically. All seats leave a room for slouch, which at the end of the journey would put the back out of shape. Ergonomic seats should provide a cushion for the mid-riff so that instead of forming a curve, the back is pushed ahead to keep the spine straight. For the record, the spine does not form a 90 degree.
Where’s the broom?
Cleanliness is indispensable. These buses should be given priority in maintenance and should be regularly washed.
It’s an age of branding
Last but not the least comes promotion, which should be done through carefully designed schemes and a punch line, besides highlighting the special features prominently.
At one time TATA and Ashok Leylend were the only two leading suppliers of bus chassis. But, now many established players like Eicher Motors and Force-Man Motors have come into the arena. They should also be given due consideration.
So what do you have to say?
These are only few of the suggestions that ran through my mind. A detailed discussion may further bring out really good solutions. HimVani has been providing feasible solutions to various social problems as in case of roadside dhabas, where we recommended certain remedial measures to the government. Hope we come out with something similar this time. So what do you say. Please use the form below. We can compile these suggestions and approach the government with the list.