When you ask for water at the PMO, you will most likely be served Rail Neer. Foreign dignitaries are offered the same packaged water at the Ministry of External Affairs.
That is the brand value of Rail Neer, bottled at plants of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), a Railways subsidiary, to cater exclusively to the needs of train passengers and stations. The next time you travel, it could be your preferred thirst quencher.
The presence of Rail Neer has also helped to check the prices of packaged water. The Railways have made the supply of its branded water mandatory on several trains, particularly on premium trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto, besides many stations.
The sale of other brands in stations and on trains is subject to IRCTC approval, and those permitted can market their product only on a par with the price of Rail Neer. Several brands which quote higher prices in the market sell at a lower price in stations and on trains.
About 4.1 lakh Rail Neer bottles are sold every day against the requirement of about 30 lakh bottles. The rest of the demand is met by private players.
Aiming to raise the Rail Neer market share from 13 to 50 per cent over the next two years, and to serve customers better, the railways have 14 more bottling plants in the pipeline, including six announced in the Railway budget for 2013-14. Now it has three plants in Nangloi (Delhi), Danapur (Bihar) and Chennai, while its biggest plant with a capacity of 2 lakh one-litre bottles at Ambernath, near Mumbai, is to start operating by year-end.
IRCTC is setting up its fifth plant at Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh, but the other proposed plants will be set up in the public-private partnership mode.