Platform vending for the digital decade

Research uncovers problems for all the stakeholders. The economically weakest get hit the hardest

The information management systems in the platform vending ecosystem of the Indian Railways are ancient and outdated

The vending ecosystem, an integral part of the great Indian Railways experience, is still largely sustained by private contractors licensed by Railways, who run regional operations with a network of vendors, enforcer-like on site managers and disorganized labour. They all maintain paper records. A lot of the in-stall vendors are not literate.

  1. The Railways can't maintain effective scrutiny of records.

  2. The licensees have to deal with a lot of paperwork and inventory misreporting.

  3. The vendors sometimes have to pay out of their own pockets for missing inventory or restocking on-the-fly.

System Design, Design Research, Rapid Prototyping, UX Strategy & Design

Solving utility is easy. Re-molding years of behavior hardened by habit, is not.

The developed solutions must respond intuitively to the cultural and habitary associations and needs of the stakeholders. The technology must not marginalize those unfamiliar with it. It should serve to break barriers and not create new ones.

The existing system is self serving with immense potential for abuse of authority


All the information was compiled and analyzed by the use of innovative insight generation tools like:

  • Gamified Roleplay

  • User Behaviour Journey Maps

  • Scenario Simulations

  • Freak Link Ideation


​Actionable insights to guide the development of into interventions and solutions were developed. A detailed insight report was generated.

Complex Ecosystem Hierarchy

The flow of information is complex where immutability of records and the need for real-time data overlap to create an organizational chaos.

Need for Oversight

The Railways wants to keep a check on the quality, finances and legal aspects of the vendor's businesses

Red-tape Blockade

The licensee has to deal with extensive paperwork, and red-tape to maintain his business. He tries to bypass the system, falsifies sales data to avoid sharing revenue and licensing fees.

Plight of the Vendors

The on-site vendors have to deal with customers who are in a hurry, while also keeping a tab on the inventory, and often end up paying out of their pockets to settle disputes with the managers and licensees.


Multiple iterations of wire-frames for interfaces for each stakeholder, mock-ups on paper and digital lo-fidelity prototypes were built and tested through various identified scenarios and user journeys. The process involved​

  • Identifying UX Goals

  • Building the Information Architecture

  • Exploring technologies: HCI, IoT integrated could systems

  • Heuristic study and analyses

  • Rapid prototyping


The proposed ecosystem has dedicated interventions to distribute ownership among all stakeholders.

The asymmetrical hierarchy of the existing system is eliminated in favor of a more lateral system where technology helps information flow, in a system that doesn't depend on trust, authority or interpersonal dynamics for smooth functioning.

Gesture based POS interface for Vendors

Real-time monitoring & ERP app for Licensees

Browser ERP dashboard for Supervisors

Optimized for non-lingual gesture based operation. Integrated railway schedules, stoppage timers and real-time up-link to a cloud based inventory and sales database. POS automatically registers sales figures to the database that can't be accessed without an official login from DRM. RFID input from Vendor ID Badges to log into the system

1. Point of sale solution for Vendors

Quick view app dashboards for viewing inventory status, ordering supplies and integrated messaging with on-site managers and enforcers. In-app financial filing and license renewal service. Automated record keeping, permissions only to view and not edit database. View information about vendor time on counter and breaks.

2. Real-time monitoring and ERP App for Licensees

Real time analytics for independent stalls, zoom into stall and vendor ID to view and filter data streams and check and renew license status for compliant vendors and licensees. Records directly exportable to other departments for filing and collection.

3. Web Dashboard for DRM/IRCTC Supervisory Department

Thank you for being an awesome team:

Karan Kanojia, Dhanashree Kolhe, Raisa Bastian, and Nagendran J

The project was a part of NID's Design for Railways Open elective 2016. For more, get in touch at