Girish Phatarpekar was waiting at the Thane railway station for his usual fast train to CST. After waiting for nearly 10 minutes with no sign of the train, he decided to tap into the “human intelligence” network. He logged onto the chatroom of Central Railway (CR) on the M-indicator app and asked, “Fast traincha problem aahe? (Is there a problem with the fast trains?)”.
Within minutes, a message popped up from a fellow commuter, Jayesh Musale, telling him there was a technical problem between Kalyan and Thane on the fast line and, hence, a 30-minute delay.
Armed with the knowledge that the train was not going to reach Thane station anytime soon, Phatarpekar could now either board a slow train or try other options to reach his workplace. Phatarpekar is one of several users using the chatting platform on the M-indicator app that has separate chatrooms for western, central main and harbour lines. These chatrooms help commuters find out everything, from the best-suited train for them to locating a bag they may have forgotten in a train.
Sachin Teke, CEO of Mobond and founder of the M-indicator app, started the chatting platform in August last year where, apart from checking train schedules on the timetable, commuters could chat with each other online to get real-time updates about where a particular train was. “We have created a ‘platform’ so that commuters waiting at platforms across the railway network could communicate with each other. There could be a person who had a harrowing journey to Churchgate due to some technical fault like a signal failure. Using this chatroom, he can inform those on the western line to avoid the fast/slow line, making it easier for the others,” Teke told The Indian Express.
Teke, who started the M-indicator app in 2010 after having a harrowing time travelling in trains, added, “Apart from commuters, we also have our staff at important stations like Churchgate, CST, Kalyan, Thane, Nerul and Borivali during peak hours, who update the chatrooms in addition to updates from commuters,” said Teke.
Besides, there is a co-ordinator whose job it is to delete any information that does not seem authentic. “The two major issues we have is, maintain authenticity of information and ensure people do not put inappropriate content on the chatting platform. Our co-ordinators delete any abusive content or quarrels that take place in the chatrooms,” he said. The app also has an inbuilt filter that does not allow words like “bomb” or those related to religion to be entered.
During the day, commuters generally have “serious discussions” like train schedules, while at night jokes and motivational messages are shared as well.
“At night, we do not mind people using the chatroom for some entertainment, provided it is not inappropriate. Once it is morning, they automatically go back to posting train timings,” said Teke.
There have been cases where people who had forgotten a bag in a particular train put it up on the group and someone at the next station collected it and handed it over to them.