Friday, December 31, 2010

Indian Railways portal is selling your data

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles the catering, tourism and online ticketing operations of the railways. Economist is now using this huge database of IRCTC to promote their magazine. In the huge clutter that is present on the internet, millions of sites, Facebook pages, ads (which people don't even look at), this is a smart move by IRCTC and the Economist. IRCTC gets additional revenues for the database and Economist finds a subscription.

Or lets rewind a bit. Do you remember signing up for additional promotional offers? We already pay a service charge for using the website and now IRCTC is sending up promotional offers through my email. It is a blatant violation of privacy.
There is a lesson to learn here. To get quick and easy money it is better to not resort to such cheap gimmicks. Startups face this dilemma when the cash flows aren't strong. But its better to not cheat your customer. Some stupids might recommend you selling all that data, like Ben's recommendation to Facebook. He says,
I have a more radical recommendation for Facebook: Go ahead, Mr. Zuckerberg, take your marketing practices a step further and sell that social data the company is collecting. Facebook is poised to become the biggest consumer database in history. Instead of using that knowledge to show users tiny ads, a more potent business model could be to sell information about users to outside marketers.
But as he later asked the same to Barry (Facebook spokesperson), Barry replied, "people share so freely on Facebook, in part, because they trust that we're not going to sell their information. We don't have any interest in violating that trust."
In the era of relationship marketing, its the relation that matters more. Aggressive tactics such as selling data spoil that relation. Indian Railways with all that profit is forgetting something that might just hurt them. For now, we are dependent on them and so we have to bear with all this non-sense.