The Indian air & rail travel market

by rohit on July 3, 2009

Most posts at this blog have been about the value-addition online is bringing to our world.

However, the bigger underlying story this blog was begun with is the Great Opportunity the Indian market offers. And online has been presented as one important enabler to realize this Great Opportunity, given the poor offline infrastructure that prevails.
This post itself is about the sheer potential of the Indian travel market. Some interesting facts on the air & train travel market :

Air travel market
Capt. Gopinath of Air Deccan-fame informs us :
  • The number of air tickets sold in India has grown 4 fold in 5 years, from 13 million in 2004 to 50 million currently. This, in a country of over 1000 million.
  • In contrast, in Ireland, a country of 5 million, 25 million tickets are sold a year. That’s a clear 100x per capita consumption on a country to country basis.
  • In Malaysia, in a country of 25 million, 15 million fly. This is probably the same number flying in India, a country over 40 times the size.
  • In the United States, 40,000 flights take off every day, in India the corresponding number is less than a thousand.
  • The U.S. has 18,000 airports, India has about a hundred,etc.
In short, while in India the aviation sector has of late grown by over 25% p.a., it is still a vastly unserved market, lagging behind other countries in terms of per capita use by about two orders of magnitude.
Unfortunately, despite these long-term prospects, the aviation sector is currently in the doldrums.
Rail travel market
The Hindustan Times of today has the following interesting stats about rail travel in the country. Did you know :

  • 8,984 passenger trains are in operation each day
  • These trains carry 15 million people a day
  • Mumbai city itself runs 2606 suburban trains
  • These suburban trains carry 7.5 million passengers
  • Thus, Mumbai city alone runs 29 % of the country’s train services and carries 50% of the train passengers !
  • The average journey distance nationally in 2007-08 was 102 km
  • The average journey distance nationally in ’08-09 was 117 km, an increase of 15% (an unusually large number bears closer examination) over the previous year.
  • The total number of train passengers in ’08-09 at 6.97 billion, was 6.3% more than in the previous year, an impressive number considering the large base.
  • Passenger segments which are witnessing big growth are :

– farm labour travelling from Bihar to the Punjab

– Students travelling from some northern States to Pune, Bangalore,Hyderabad & Chennai
– great increase in outbound traffic from NorthEast (due to increased rail infrastructure)
Urbanisation i.e. migration is the biggest long-term factor causing increased rail travel. The Railways also believe demand will continue to grow manifold in coming years.
If we look at air & rail travel – together, as above – India is ‘on the move’.

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