Data is new oil and oil can make its owner a Sheikh. The reading on the wall is clear that data is invaluable store of information that can throw humungous possibilities for generating new revenue streams for the organizations. Railways have been for long working on development of IT systems for replacing many of its physical processes. One such system is IPAS(Integrated Payroll Accounting System) also formally known as AIMS(Accounting Information Management System).IPAS from its initial objective of being a payroll system has diversified into recording comprehensive financial information regarding all the expenditure that is done on Indian railways. It records the staff information like salaries , pensions ,allowances ,NPS contributions as well as contractual payments for suppliers of different kinds of contract. With paper being phased away , IPAS is becoming one-stop solution for the employees and contractors to see their financial data.
The growing niche audience of IPAS and the constant improvement in its interface makes IPAS ready for monetization drive which can bring benefits to all the stakeholders in the system. IPAS can monetize itself by two ways: advertisement on its platform and by allowing Value added services on its platform. Let us come to advertisement first. IPAS provides an audience of 8 lakh salary holders and has substantial number of pensioners on tis platform too. It is also used by Contractors to see their Bill Status. Salary Account Holders, Pensioners and Contractors are a very attractive audience for Banks and various financial companies. Banks and other financial companies can use this platform to advertise about their products like Railway Salary packages, life and term insurances etc. On one hand, it can allow railways to charge some license fees for such advertisements and on the other hand it will give railway employees an access to a gamut of financial products at their doorstep. In fact, there is a huge lack of information among railway employees on the special packages available for railway employees. One such package is Railway Salary Package offered by various banks. Thus, discriminate advertisement by Banks and financial companies on IPAS can work in favor of all the stakeholders while raking in some moolah for railways.
Second way is to allow Value Added Services to employees and contractors. Let us come to contractors first. Contractors require a lot of financial instruments like Bank Guarantee, working capital loans , lines of credit etc to execute contracts awarded by Railways. These services are provided majorly by Banks who compete with each other to get a share of pie of the income which comes from charging fees for such financial instruments. The Value of such information can be gauged by the fact that ICICI bank is providing Bank guarantee Repository system free of cost to government departments .Bank Guarantee Repository System is a customized product developed by ICICI bank whereby they are automating BG validation and tracking process and also providing their ‘BG on the Go’ services to the contractors who require BG. No doubt , it is a value product as it helps the government organizations cut their costs on validation and tracking of BG’s but why ICICI bank is providing it free of cost is because it is getting access to contractors information through this system. This indicates that there is high value in information public organizations hold especially in form of their clientele.
Thus, it is a good idea that railway should develop its own BGRS which is already half done. The only requirement is to go for SFMS(Structure Financial Management System) integration. After that, railway can allow different banks to come on its platform and provide Bank Guarantee services to its contractors. This will lead to competition among banks, better deals for contractors and some license fees for railways. It is a win-win proposition for all the stakeholders and can lead to value addition to the system. However, monetization of any data system should take care of privacy concerns of the clientele ,which is employees and contractors in this case, and that is why it is more important that monetization should focus on hosting bankers on its platform rather than hosting our information on Banker’s platform.Fortunately,IPAS is in sweet spot to do so today and it seems to be a good time to move onto monetization path which is not only going to generate Value but is also going rake in moolah some of which can be reinvested in scaling up technology to bring better user experience while some can go into kitty of railways. It can also demonstrate how government organizations can monetize its data without actually sharing it.