New Delhi. Realizing the fact that Indians end up making friendship with their co-passengers during train journeys, Facebook has decided to buy IRCTC – the train ticketing website of Indian Railways – to improve the network of friends of Facebook users.
The social networking website has offered 5 billion USD – five times it has offered to pay to Instagram – to buy out IRCTC, which has been accepted by the Railway Ministry, sources say.
“Since train fares were not increased for most of the traveling classes, we thought this was the best way to increase revenues,” a source at Railway Ministry confirmed the deal with Facebook, “And we are just selling the website; ownership of the Indian Railways remains completely with the government.”
Post this acquisition, every user will need a Facebook login to book train tickets through IRCTC. In fact, he’d need to mention Facebook login details of every passenger who’d be traveling on that ticket.
The moment a confirmed ticket is booked, all the passengers traveling on that ticket will be added to the friend-list of those who would be traveling on adjacent berths.
“A user will get an automatic message from newly added friends like – Hi! I’d be traveling with you on the Side Upper seat of Radjhani Express next month. Let’s connect! – and they can start getting friendly so that there is no awkwardness during the journey,” a Facebook official explained the ‘benefits’ to the end user.
“Newly friended users can play card games on Facebook as rehearsal of what they could be doing during the actual journey, or they can just start chatting,” the official further enumerated the benefits.
The Facebook official clarified that a friend added through the IRCTC website can’t be removed till the train journey is completed or till either of them canceled their confirmed ticket.
“We are looking into cases where a passenger could exchange berths with another during the journey. We’ll make sure that the ‘right’ friends are added to a user network so that the train journey is truly enjoyable,” the Facebook official told Faking News.
The official rejected privacy concerns, claiming that passengers traveling by Indian Railways were already exchanging crucial contact details like email addresses and phone numbers at the end of the journey.
“We are just helping them stay connected,” he said.
Facebook is confident that the step will help them grown their reach in India and witness increased activity by thousands, maybe millions of users, who will be getting new friends each day.
“I am sure that Indian users will ‘like’ this feature, especially those guys who spend like hours at the gates of the railway coaches staring at the reservation chart to find out if any girl has been allotted a berth near to them,” an IRCTC official said.