Rail Neer, the packaged drinking water manufactured by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), will soon become the only brand of water bottles sold at city platforms. Backed by a Supreme Court order, which prohibited sale of any other packaged water bottles by the Railways, ‘Rail Neer’ will likely see an increase in its production at the Ambernath plant, one of the four plants manufacturing the bottles across the country.
Arvind Malkhede, group general manager of the IRCTC, said the Ambernath plant has the capacity of producing 2 lakh bottles on a daily basis.
“On an average, the plant would produce 1.2 lakh bottles – the per day demand across railway stations,” Malkhede said. Canteens at Mumbra, Thane and CST confirmed receiving orders that they could only stock Rail Neer bottles. A stall employee at Thane said, “There are times when a person specifically asks for a particular brand. Most of them, however, take whatever is on offer. Out of 100 people, there could be at least five who say no to Rail Neer and insist on a particular brand.”
He said that it will take some time before commuters will begin to “trust” the brand. “Yeh to naya hai abhi. Logon ko bharosa karne mein samay lagega. Kuch log paani ke maamle mein bahut savdhaan rehte hain. (Rail Neer is a relatively new product. People will take some time to trust it. Some people are extremely careful when it comes buying packaged water).”
IRCTC officials agree that building “trust” will take some time. “One has to take into consideration that some of these private operators, like Aquafina against which we are competing, are the topmost brands across the country,” Malkhede said. “We use top-of-the-line processes at our Ambernath unit to ensure good quality. There are 11 stages of purification and we have an in-house micro-biological lab where samples are tested. The entire process does not involve the touch of hands and we are in the process of obtaining an ISO certification in the next few months,” he added.
An IRCTC official said sale of Rail Neer in the first half of last year was “very limited” as canteens would stock packaged bottles of private brands. “Since November last year, though, the sale has picked up. Now, with the court order, we are optimistic about the growth,” he said.