Every day, across airlines in India, almost 40,000 seats go vacant. Despite this happening, more than 5000 jawans from our armed forces travel in the general compartment every day due to unavailability of confirmed train seats.
Recognising this problem two engineers from the Army Institute of Technology, Pune, Varun Jain and Ravi Kumar, founded udChalo in 2012.
The intent of this organisation is to make use of the vacant airline seats by offering them at a discounted rate exclusively for those in the Indian armed forces, which includes ex-servicemen and dependents.
Based in Pune, this organisation offers services both offline and online. Their physical counters are present inside Army cantonments, at the SSB and ASC centers in Bengaluru, DIAV in Delhi, BEG Centre in Pune, and MH Kirkee.
We, at The Better India spoke to Aditi Sharma, who manages Marketing and Design for the organisation.
Speaking about the people who work with udChalo, she says, “Everyone associated with us is in some way connected to the armed forces. Either they have served or are retired from service. We also have a war widow who works with us.”
So while the idea is interesting, the operations of the company is quite engaging as well.
Addressing the issue of re-employement, Aditi says, “Re-employment and re-establishment is an area of concern for many ranks since they retire by the age of 35. To operate our offline booking counters, we hire former servicemen or dependents. Other roles where we are working with ex-servicemen are customer care and business development. We have eight ex-servicemen and one war widow working with us currently. We provide training for the work required of them.”
As of now udChalo has partnered with six airlines and are hopeful to get more on-board. “While we do have the option of booking online, we see many of them prefer to come to the booking counters to do so. Some of the reasons we see are lack of knowledge in using the internet, lack of proper connectivity, and sometimes just apprehension about using an online portal.”
“We have seen many first-time flight users, and the queries they ask us are usually all about the procedure. How much before a flight should we reach the airport? What documents should we carry with us? How much luggage will be allowed?” says Aditi.
Currently one can find an udChalo counter in more than 18 places, which include Leh, Uri, Shillong, Siliguri, among others. The list has only been increasing since the inception.
Also, another aspect of the company involves the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC).
Situated in Range Hills, Kirkee, Pune, it is a well-known rehabilitation centre for defence personnel who suffered spinal cord injuries while serving the nation. The main aim of this centre is to provide proper aftercare and rehabilitation.
Understanding the need to keep these personnel sufficiently engaged in activities, udChalo has set up a call centre manned by eight members from PRC Pune.
“Given that we all are from a defence background, we can tap into our network and approach the right people. Regarding marketing – while we depend on social media, we also are in constant touch with various defence units who in turn inform their troops about the facilities that we offer,” says Aditi.
Here’s wishing this organisation flies higher.