A majority of the Indian population uses cycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, trains, and other public transport systems to travel to work. In fact, public transport systems are the primary modes of transport in India, and are among the most heavily used ones in the world.

Transport plays a very significant role in today’s fast developing world. Not only does it reduce the distance barrier between two places, but between people as well. That said - commuting is also one of the most hated tasks of the day! In a scorching hot weather, pushing and shoving to get inside stuffed trains/buses, and standing squashed between strangers, desperately wanting to get out - is a torturous and painful experience! And this exactly is almost always the scenario during peak travel time. However, over time, India has witnessed the entry of newer, better, more convenient, and more evolved trsansport options, and that seems to be soothing a lot of pain areas of the sector.

Let’s take a look at the journey that India has covered:
Traditional commuting methods

Transportation, in the ancient times, was very different from what we see today. With barely-there roads and inefficient means of transport, people covered long distances on foot or bullock carts. In fact, bullock carts were one of the most used options back then.

It was after the arrival of the British, that we saw the development of the roads as we see today, and this brought about changes in the modes of commuting. These began with horse carriages, and were soon followed by cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, trams, buses, ambassador taxis, and railways, as well. Some of these options are now obsolete and some have found their place in the modern world. Buses and railways went on to control more than 90% of the public transport across the Indian cities; and the remaining was taken care of by the taxis and the auto rickshaws. For decades, this remained so, and old buses, trains, roads, railway tracks desperately awaited a change. Due to economic reasons and many other, the transportation sector remained under-developed for about 45 years.

It was only in 1991 that India liberalized its economy and decided to welcome change with open arms. This kick-started modernization in the sector, and the changes are here to be seen.

Modern commuting methods


Another important aspect that sparked modernization was the newly evolved middle class, who along with the affluent class, demanded better public transport systems, infrastructure, and also wanted their own two wheelers and 4 wheelers.
To satisfy these demands, many developments were introduced by the government overtime, the most significant one being the introduction of modern rapid transit (high-capacity and advanced public transport). This included trains and buses with better amenities, metro trains, monorails, and light rail systems that were at par with the global standards. All this was aside private vehicles that had silently grown to account for almost 30% of the total transport in the urban areas. There was a major shift happening in the way India commuted.

The other noteworthy change was the entry of private app-based aggregators, who not only disrupted the traditional taxi and auto-rickshaw market, and boosted the growth of the Indian taxi sector, but also forced the automotive OEMs to relook and change their strategies. The convenience, service, and pricing they offered were so lucrative, that they attracted a range of customers, and domestic and foreign investors too. Looking at their staggering growth and fanfare, a whole range of start-ups entered the field. From auto-rickshaw aggregators and bus aggregators to carpooling apps and self-drive car rental companies, commuters now had everything available at their fingertips.

People also enjoyed the convenience of supporting services offered by different apps, some of which provided information on traffic, and some about public transport. People chose smarter methods like using updated timetables and real-time scheduling. They have also come to adopt online booking and using cashless payment options.

Over time, these changes, developments, and disruptions have brought us to where we stand today - where commuting has become a lot more convenient, and there are plenty of options to choose from. In just a matter of 10 years, from using century-old commuting methods, India has grown to witness substantial development — both in terms of spread of network and in the output.

Despite all ongoing enhancements in the sector, there is great demand for even better transport infrastructure and services. With all the work that is happening, India has a lot to look forward to.

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Disclaimer: This article is for information purpose only. The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily constitute the views of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. and its employees.