Excl: Paytm set to enter online bus ticketing service, but not eyeing a complete pivot

11 Dec, 2012, which enables mobile, DTH and data card recharging online, is launching a bus ticketing service under the name Paytm Tickets. Till now, bus ticketing has been the preserve of vertical sites like RedBus and also some generic OTAs who have added the service as a business extension. So the entry of Paytm would spice up the market and see some interesting competition in a segment which has been a virtual monopoly of RedBus.

Paytm's bus ticketing service, which goes live tonight, claims to have around 600 operators on board with more than 10,000 routes. The website, in private beta till midnight, will be an integral part of the parent site and will work with the usual search filters like city, travel date and number of passengers. It also offers a selection of buses available for a specific route and one can choose the seat as well. The usual payment modes are applicable for this service and one can also check the ticket status online.

The new service debuts at the Great Online Shopping Festival with a launch discount of 10 per cent cash-back of 50 per cent (RedBus is also participating in the fest and offering 10 per cent discount).

Asked about the foray into a totally different segment, Paytm CEO Harinder Takhar said, "It is a natural extension for us to upsell to our top-up buying customers. We think we can move up the user experience for buying bus tickets than what's there in the market today. Especially for the mobile-first internet users, there is a lot to do. We have tried some other categories earlier but didn't go ahead with those because we wanted to make sure that we would be the leaders in whatever segment we entered. We are confident that we can differentiate ourselves in the online bus ticketing space with our service and attention to details. We entered the recharge market and became the leaders. We plan to do the same in this sector as well."

Paytm has been adding a number of new features stealthily "the last one being the total revamp of its mobile apps. The company was incubated by One97 Communications and started operations in April 2011. It works on a mixed business model – earning commissions from operators and generating revenues from the coupon model where it gets a commission from the merchant of a particular coupon.

On the possible expansion to other categories, Takhar said, "Well, yes. We would be adding some more categories, most of them in the next six months. But whatever new category we choose to enter, we would put a lot of thought into the USP that we offer to our customers.

Currently, the biggest player in the sector is Bangalore-based RedBus and it has recently hit the milestone of selling 1 crore tickets. The company did Rs 300 crore in revenues for the year ended March 31, 2012. According to RedBus founder Phanindra Sama, the bus travel market across the country has been growing at 25 per cent every year. The kind of business the company has pulled off surely says a lot about the opportunity but being the first mover, RedBus has a huge edge over other players.

Will Paytm, with its huge fan following for online recharge, be able to replicate the success with bus ticketing and would we see the 'former' online recharge portal expanding into other ticketing services? Watch this space for the updates.