The other day I bought a 2-way ticket from Bandra to Churchgate and for a change happened to read the terms and conditions carefully. It said that I had to make the journey from Bandra to Churchgate within the next one hour. However, I could make the return journey any time till the end of the next day! And given that the tickets here aren’t gobbled up like those in London metros, and that the tickets are seldom checked, the ticket I had in my hand was in effect a one-way 2-day travelcard from Churchgate to Bandra. In other words, for the next two days I could make as many journeys as I wanted on the Western line in the direction from Churchgate to Bandra!
Suppose I travel from Bandra to Churchgate daily. Instead of buying one return ticket, I buy two return tickets, one from each direction. Instead of spending 12 bucks, I spend 24. And what do I have? A day travel-card for the next day on the Western line between Churchgate and Bandra! Given that one return ticket from Churchgate to Bandra costs Rs. 12, that leaves a really loose lower bound on the amount I can charge for the travelcard I am offering. And since that is precisely the amount I have spent in order to “structure the package”, I don’t run the risk of a loss (I am confident that there will be demand if the package is offered at Rs. 12).
The problem remains in creating profitable demand. Is there a market for a single-line day-travelcard in Bombay? considering that it is for a single line, the number of destinations that are connected is limited. However, there definitely will be people who will need to travel more than twice a day on this line, and they could use this card. Maybe, if instead of Bandra to Churchgate, I create the product between, say, Virar and Churchgate (which covers practically the entire length of the Western line) there would be enhanced demand.
What about the supply? There are enough people who buy one two-way ticket each and every day. If they can be convinced, instead, to buy two such tickets (one in each direction) and maybe pay them a small premium (say Re. 1), enough day travel-cards can be sourced.
Only problem with the plan is that the margins are low and we have to make up for it with volumes. Also, barriers to entry are minimal, which makes this volume consolidation a tough proposition. Who knows, maybe even the Western Railway will get similar ideas and people will have an authentic source to buy the travelcards from, thus destroying our business.
On an unrelated note, the other evening I travelled from Bandra to Churchgate on a local at a time when most of the traffic is north-bound (I was travelling south). And I noticed a large number of people who were actually bound north but got onto the southbound train so as to find seats for the long journy northward!