RailTel preparing request for qualification proposal for railways’ entertainment content tender, HT Media evinces interest
The Indian Railways has asked RailTel Corp. of India Ltd to prepare a request for qualification proposal (RFQ) for offering pre-loaded entertainment content and Internet radio to passengers.
According to two railway ministry officials, who requested anonymity, HT Media Ltd, Media on Track and Dainik Bhaskar Group’s My FM (94.3) has also evinced interest in the rail radio plan along with Hungama Digital Media, SR Moving Talkies and Saregama India Ltd for the Wi-Fi entertainment plans. Earlier, Radio Mirchi and Zee Media Corp. Ltd had shown interest, as reported by InfraCircle on 12 September.
The national carrier plans to provide pre-loaded content through RailTel’s optic fibre cable network by providing Wi-Fi hotspots across 400 stations and trains by the end of this financial year. In addition, it also aims to provide Internet rail radio services to passengers, InfraCircle reported.
RailTel is a government firm which has exclusive rights to lay optic fibre cable network along railway tracks.
The Dainik Bhaskar Group runs 17 radio stations across seven states of India, under the brand name 94.3 MY FM. HT Media, in a consulting partnership with Virgin Radio, operates the FM radio channel Fever 104.
“HT Media has come in a big way. It is quite keen to participate in the RFP along with Dainik Bhaskar Group’s My FM (94.3) and other major radio channels including Radio Mirchi. For Wi-Fi streaming, Hungama.com, Zee Media, Moving Talkies and Saregama India are quite interested. They want to sell films,” said one of the officials.
The private firm’s interest in the plan stems from the footfalls the railways generate. According to ministry of railways, of 8,224 million passengers travelled in 2014-15. Also, the people’s carrier has been trying to increase its non-fare revenue from the current 5% to 10-20%, as is a norm for many railway systems across the world.
“We have formally conveyed to Railtel to go ahead and prepare the RFP. We have authorised them to go ahead with the tendering. This has to be done in the current financial year,” added the official quoted above.
The plan is being rolled out at a time when the national transporter is losing traffic, and freight and passenger revenue to roads and air routes.
According to the second railway official, the target for awarding the tender is by the end of the current financial year.
“Rail radio, on-board and downloadable Wi-Fi and Railways Display Network (RDN)—all our assets will be up for grab this year. We will do it in a phase-wise manner in all trains in the next two-three years. The idea is to implement it in 15,000 coaches,” the official said.
Railways plans to increase its non-fare revenue from the current 5% to 10-20%, as is a norm for many railway systems across the world.
Queries emailed to the spokespersons of ministry of railways, HT Media, Hungama Digital Media and Saregama India Ltd on 21 September, and Media on Track and Dainik Bhaskar Group on 22 September, remained unanswered. Queries emailed to a Railtel spokesperson on 23 September also did not elicit any response.
“To confirm our interest, we have been in touch with NFR directorate as well as RailTel for the project related discussions,” a spokesperson from SR Moving Talkies said in an emailed response.
According to experts, the entertainment content will have to curated wisely.
“People spend a lot of time sitting in trains and some source of entertainment definitely has potential. But there are two things that need to be considered—the type of content and price of content,” said Romal Shetty, partner at consultancy firm KPMG India.
The railways is also working to advertise on a high-tech centralised network of 100,000 screens across 2,175 stations by 31 March. In addition, it also aims to call for tenders on a zone-wise basis for outdoor advertisements across road-over-bridges, road-under-bridges and level crossings.
The various non-fare revenue options include vinyl-wrap on train coaches and digital advertising.
This story has been updated.
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