A mobile compatible website that tracks trains and timings

The official website of the Indian Railways often puts travellers to considerable difficulty, with the server being overloaded on busy days making it impossible for them to check their schedules. Long-distance passengers get off trains even in the middle of the night to check which remote station they have stopped at, or struggle through Apps on their smartphones to ascertain their precise location. Others wanting to ensure they don’t miss their destination in the wee hours set an alarm or are forced to wake up well before the stop arrives, not wanting to take a chance.

All these hassles could become a thing of the past, thanks to two enterprising brothers whose aim is to provide accurate and updated train schedules to the public. They can check it on any Internet-enabled mobile phone.

Kuberan Marimuthu (26) and his brother Murugaprabu (24), software engineers from PSG College of Technology and third-generation businessmen who have their own start-up firm in Chennai that deals with cloud computing, started work on a dynamic website in September 2010. This project was meant to help passengers plan their trips better and enhance their travel experience.

Soaring popularity

The website, aptly named spoturtrain.com, allows anybody with an Internet-enabled phone to check the schedule of their train which is updated every minute, and has made life for the average traveller a lot easier. What started off as an experiment is generating over a million hits each month, indicating the soaring popularity of the site.

It draws information about trains and their schedules from the website of the Indian Railways and updates them regularly. All a user has to do is enter his train number to know the location of the train along with the expected time of arrival.

The idea to start a mobile compatible website germinated when the brothers were still in college. “I was doing an integrated Master’s in Software Engineering at PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, in 2010, and travelled by rail to different places. During one such trip to the railway station, I realised how hard it was for people to get precise information about arrivals or departures. They would either have to rely on the information provided at the enquiry counter or the official Railway website, which was heavily burdened especially on weekends,” said Kuberan whose brainchild it was to create a mobile-friendly website. Murugaprabu joined him in this project after his graduation in 2011.

Kuberan spoke to a few passengers about their website which would besides providing constant updates on their phones, even calculate the distance from their destination and the speed of the train. By the end of the day, the site had 300 hits, purely through word-of-mouth. This number rose to 1,500 hits every month in a year’s time. Kuberan and Murugaprabu also started getting feedback from regular visitors on how to improve the site, apart from doing their own research.

“While going through various websites of the Indian Railways, we found that they followed an internal mode of communication with the control rooms at various stations and a mobile user had to scroll through four or five different screens to get the information he wanted, which was cumbersome,” explains Murugaprabu, co-designer of the website.

The brothers also discovered that a majority of the passengers were not familiar with Google and hardly used the Internet.

“Our focus was to cater to those passengers who can afford no more than a Chinese phone and not those using the latest smartphones, so the site had to be simple,” Murugaprabu explains.

Feedback was sought and improvements made to the site accordingly. The duo has also introduced contests to increase user participation. “We have had competitions where the users are asked to share experiences about their journeys with us, and winners were given T-shirts. This has also led to increased hits on our site,” says a jubilant Kuberan.

Being third-generation entrepreneurs, business with ethics is in their blood.

“No business can be successful without trust and ethics, and having a family business meant these values were ingrained in us. Quality of service is of utmost importance and it is our life-long ambition to sustain it,” Kuberan signs off.