How Data-Driven Creativity Is Helping To Solve India’s Transportation Crisis

A conversation with Hrishabh Sanghvi, co-founder and CTO of Railofy
6 min read
smartphone surrounded by collected travel data of flight times and railway schedules

The sheer magnitude of online data available today has enabled companies to realize their full creative potential, maintaining their competitive edge, and responding to market shifts with the required agility. This data was also translated into creativity, with one startup striving to tackle a long-standing pain point in the Indian travel sector. We sat down with Hrishabh Sanghvi, co-founder and CTO of Railofy, to learn how online data is enabling this groundbreaking startup to confront a major challenge.

But first, let’s look into some creative ways that companies have recently been using online data

Alternative asset market

While the alternative asset market showed potential prior to COVID-19, once the pandemic hit, the number of investors expressing interest in this unique space blew up. Why? With the unstable market caused by the pandemic, investors were looking into other, less traditional avenues as a way to reduce risk. Using online data, venture capital firms identified this trend early on and began investing significant dollars in startups specializing in alternative assets.

One such example is Alt, a startup that’s raised $31 million from top investors. Alt’s mission is to “increase the transparency and liquidity of alternative assets” and enables people to invest in and trade sports cards just like they would stocks. Using online data, Alt gives users the most accurate valuation of their individual sports cards and ‘portfolio’ in real-time, and aims to transform the alternative asset space.

Amazon seller acquisition

With the massive surge in e-commerce activity brought about by 2020’s digital acceleration, Amazon proved to be the star of the show, boasting 38% of overall US e-commerce sales. This then inspired a massive outpouring of VC dollars into acquisition companies. Their goal? Buy as many successful Amazon third-party storefronts as possible and turn them into conglomerates.

One company doing just that is Thrasio, launching in 2018 and already reaching Unicorn status in just two short years. Other players include Perch, raising $123.5 million, and Boosted Commerce raising $87 million. So how do these companies determine which Amazon storefronts to buy? Online data of course – co-founder of Boosted Commerce, Keith Richman said that his team uses a scorecard system that “calculates how likely a product is to see future growth — based on the rating, the number of reviews, the length of time a company has been in business and the overall sales trend.”

Data-driven transportation alternatives

India’s massive railway congestion problem and its huge supply and demand gap are proving to be increasingly worrisome for its citizens and government alike. While railway capacity is going up, population numbers are growing at much faster speeds, so one in every two people who buy train tickets are put on a waiting list.

One startup, Railofy, is looking to address what many have failed to do up until now. Using online data, it is aiming to solve one of the biggest problems in India’s travel sector. We sat down with Hrishabh Sanghvi, co-founder and CTO of Railofy, to understand exactly how the company uses online data to help creatively solve the Indian congestion crisis.

Can you tell us about the company?

Railofy is an early-stage travel tech startup trying to solve the congestion problem in the Indian Railways. In India, whenever there is more demand than supply with train seats, people are put on a waiting list. It’s a very big problem, and this is what we’re trying to solve: to enable those waitlisted passengers to get to their desired destinations at the cheapest price possible. To begin with, we are solving this problem with our travel protection product; when a passenger is waitlisted, we give them the option to purchase our travel protection, and if their railway ticket doesn’t get confirmed at the time of departure, we send them on a flight for the similar cost of the railway ticket. The trains in India are a public utility so the prices are lower compared to flights. Typically, a flight would cost three times the price of a train ticket, so that’s where our value comes in for our consumers.

Why do you need to collect online data?

The first product we launched is the travel protection product, which assures the passenger’s journey. In order to price this properly, we have various inputs that go into our pricing algorithm. This algorithm needs to know the prices of flights, the different flight options (i.e., direct flights or flights with connections), number of seats available, and the chances of passengers getting a confirmed seat. Therefore, I need to collect a lot of online data around railway congestion to be able to analyze the railway network in India, which is complex. We need this in order to predict both railroad and airline congestion levels and how we should set our prices.

Which Bright Data product do you use?

We use the Bright Data Proxy Manager, which is very useful for us, as well as Bright Data’s Data Center IPs and Residential IPs. We have been working with Bright Data and its India proxies for the last year.

What has your experience been so far working with Bright Data?

Our experience has been excellent. We are working with various proxy providers, but there are very few that offer us the specific functionality we need within the Residential IPs. Also, in terms of downtime or outages, if there are any, there’s very proactive communication with Bright Data, and it’s only ever for very short periods of time. It fits our needs perfectly.

What is your vision for the future?

For us, this first product that we’ve launched is just an entry point into the market. Our aim is to be the largest brand in the Indian Railways space. The opportunity is huge in India, as 90% of Indians travel by train compared to only 8% of Indians by flights, so we obviously want to target the 90% and build a very big company. We want to become the household brand for anything to do with railways, including tickets, food, entertainment, etc.

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