Digital social media: Enabling performance quality of Indian Railway services

Published date01 November 2018
AuthorSundaravalli Narayanaswami
Date01 November 2018
Digital social media: Enabling performance quality of Indian
Railway services
Sundaravalli Narayanaswami
Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad,
Sundaravalli Narayanaswami, Public Systems
Group, Indian Institute of Management,
Ahmedabad, India.
Indian Railways (IR) is the single largest organization that manages and operates a
mammoth of transportation services in the World's largest democracy. IR services
are operated through 7,137 stations, a route length of 66,030 km, and a total track
of 117,996 km. The number of passengers carried every day is 23 million with passen-
ger earnings of INR 42190 crores. Scale of operations translates to humungous every-
day challenges. Quite understandably, customer dissatisfaction is prevalent, in spite of
subsidized travel fares and multiple initiatives. In recent times, IR has become very
active in the digital social media space to provide realtime and dynamic service
improvements. In this talk, we will be discussing the beginning of technology interven-
tion in IR, managerial challenges in exploiting technology advancements, and the
current status in managing a largescale public transport operations. We will also dis-
cuss about the insights, deployability in comparative segments, and the way forward.
An interesting recent development in the Digital story of the Indian
Railways (IR) is the push towards utilization of social media for
connecting with customers. The Railway Ministry's active social media
cell has garnered appreciation from passengers and observers around
the nation. This cell has also been recognized as creating a stronger
connection between the Railways and passengers in what has often
been a highly fractious relationship.
Mr. Suresh Prabhu, the then Honorable Minister of Railways, received
a distress phone call soon taking charge of the Ministry of Railways in
2014. A passenger was calling, saying a railway official was harassing
her, and requesting assistance. Although action was swiftly taken
based on the complaint, the minister was keen to develop a robust
mechanism for grievance redressal in railways. This led to the
establishment of the Railway Assistance Helplines and the Railway
Messaging Application, both in early 2015. However, the utility and
impact was less than what was desired.
IR needed a userfriendly and widely accepted grievance reporting
and redressal mechanism that was easier to track and provide feedback.
The Ministry of Railways (MoR), Government of India, created theTwit-
ter handle @RailMinIndia and the Facebook page Ministry of Railways
Indiaon December 2, 2016. This was announced by the Minister of
State for Railways Shri Rajen Gohain as a written reply to a question
in Rajya Sabha on December 2, 2016. The ministry also created handles
for all General Managers and Divisional Railway Managers of Indian
Railways. The objective was to interact and engage with public using
social media (Sharma, 2017).
During the first 4 months of its existence, the social media teamwas
run by a single person, Mr. Ved Prakash (Rathi, 2017). An exoperations
man who had been with the Railways in Dhanbad for 5 years, Mr.
Prakash himself admitted to being a rookie when it came to social media.
By January 2016, however, a proper social media team was established
to address customer grievances. The 15member team, located on the
fifth floor of Rail Bhawan, was set up under the aegis of the Public
Grievance cell, and two of its members are now being allocated to the
task of handling complaints about the Indian Railway Catering and
Tourism Corporation. The team was given training on the utilization of
social media, customer service, approaching distressed passengers,
and complaint resolution. The team now works 24 × 7 in three shifts.
Received: 24 June 2018 Accepted: 26 June 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1849
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1849.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, 1of10

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT