It was in summer 2014, I was traveling in train to my Karmbhumi Hyderabad from Janmbhumi Bhilwara, Rajasthan. It was around 30hrs long journey and I was traveling all alone as my wife stayed back with kids at their nana-nani’s place (the hot favorite destination for summer vacations). During this whole journey, a sequence of incidents took.
I boarded the train at 11 PM in the night, slept on my upper birth (the best place for lone travelers – sleep, read or just relax, no disturbance). The next morning as I woke up, saw a bunch of people sitting around, everyone looking strangely at each other trying to guess what the next person profession, staring strangely at each other, whether it is safe to talk with him or not (how we’re always taught not to talk or mingle with strangers and railway announcements ).
Next few hours passed on laptop, on mobile, WhatsApping, facebooking, gaming, reading newspaper (I read each and every article of newspaper when in train, News-paper are maximum utilized in train reading and then for food). It was 30 hr long journey and still not half was done, I then finally started conversion to a guy and came to know that he was just married, working at Infosys, coming from Ajmer and carrying a lot of luggage so very sceptical to talk to any stranger. (Folks traveling first time after marriage always travel by train and not flight, don’t ask why:) ). After introducing him that I worked at Qualcomm, Telecom Company for a few years, he became more comfortable. During a the talk , found out he was working in Infy Pocahram area and we talked about Infy, Qualcomm, real estate development and various issues of the globe and the time started moving faster now.
After sometime, TTE came around and I heard him cursing Railway for not allotting seats properly. He was saying how family members are scattered in different boggies and half the times family members are looking for a way to exchange seats or troubling TTE to help.
I then heard a Chaiwala passing by…“Bolo taazi garam adrak, masala wali chaiiii”….. Tempted, impressed and trapped by his marketing skills, I bought a cup of tea. But the taste, to my disappointment, was pathetic. He was gone by the time I gulped my first sip and had gotten busy making fools out of many in the train like me. Yet, there was no way I could stop it.
At the end of my journey, I realized there are a lot of problems in train journey and many of them can be solved if all the travelers got along. Like, Sharing Auto-Taxi, finding local information, sharing movies/songs, finding partners for playing Chess, Cards, UNO and emergency medical helps would be easier, boredom would be no more, TTE’s corrupted practices can be looked after and a lot more things can happen, if only all the travelers got.
It made me think why can’t we create WhatsApp kinds group of a train people to connect them, and solve these personal problems during the train journey. and I started researching more about it. I went through different phases of validating a new product (Founder Institute, helped a lot )- doing surveys in a train, talking to people at railway stations, making a few trips to Nagpur to observe people more closely. I found out that lots of ( specially alone traveler ) having bad experiences of food/tea or getting, bored in train, medical emergency, or some or other problem in train journey, and looking for a safe and secure way to interact with fellow travelers, hoping to make new lifelong friends.
And Bang! That’s how the OMitra was born. A Train Sathi OMitra – for Indian Train passengers. Your personal train traveling assistant, connecting safely with fellow travelers even before your train starts, helping you interact safely with stranger passengers and make everlasting stories.