Keeping Track

CIOL Bureau
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Railways, the world's second largest railway, carries over 11 mn passengers

everyday as it criss-crosses the length and breadth of the country. Can one

possibly make a positive impact on the lives of these millions? Surely, the

technology and the people behind it can, and are already on track to simplify

life for this sizeable chunk of the Indian population. The sheer scale of work

and the magnitude of impact that first attracted Dr Rajesh Narang, general

manager, Systems, at the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), to join

that league, today keeps him going with the same formidable energy and passion.


After stabilizing the

passenger reservation system (PRS), he is now entrusted with the task of

automating the unreserved ticketing system, which accounts for almost 95% of the

passenger load on the Indian Railways. Considering this, Narang is undoubtedly

the man in the throes of one of his biggest challenges ever. “The scale and

the magnitude of projects that we get to do here in railways, and their

socio-economic impact, cannot be matched by the private sector and therein lies

the satisfaction,” he explains. With over 23 years of experience in the public

sector, he has no regrets for having not tried his luck in the private sector.

CRIS was established

in 1986 as an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Railways. It is, in

effect, the IT arm of Indian Railways and its activities encompass the entire

gamut of design, development, implementation and maintenance of the IT systems.

As general manager of CRIS, Narang is responsible for delivering on the

technology strategy through application-oriented, technology-driven business

solutions. He is also responsible for all of the application development.




  • PhD

    in Computer Science on the topic 'view integration and concurrency

    control in object oriented database system', from Delhi University

  • MTech

    in Computer Application from IIT Delhi

  • MSc

    and MPhil (Operational Research) from Delhi University


He has been the chief architect of the unreserved

ticketing system (UTS), e-Reservation, e-Payment for freight and data





  • 1983

    — 1986  SAIL: Initially

    at the Rourkela Steel Plant and later at the EDP Department of Bhilai

    Steel Plant in January 1984.

  • 1986

    — 1989  NIC: Responsible

    for developing scientific applications requiring forecasting of data.

  • 1989

    — 1995  CRRI: As head of

    the computer center; responsible for automating all the functional


  • 1995

    to present — CRIS: Served in various capacities including deputy

    chief system manager, regional manager heading the northern region of

    passenger reservation system (PRS); chief system manager; and most

    recently general manager (Systems)


  • To

    successfully implement the unreserved ticketing system (UTS) across

    the country

  • To

    bring in cutting-edge technology like RFID and other emerging

    applications to create a new delivery channel for providing tickets to

    the passengers



  • Do

    not avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of things

  • Do

    not think that you know everything

  • Don't

    buy products off-the-shelf. Create your own solution and ask vendors

    to fit their products into that solution. Can take the technology from

    outside but the solution has to be built in-house

  • Talk

    to the engineering groups on the vendor side

  • Sit

    and spend time with the engineering team inside the organization

  • The

    work is not over with conceptualizing. Do the handholding from

    conceptualizing the solution, commissioning right up to maintaining it

    and ensuring that it delivers the desired results 


Wife (teacher by profession), a son and a daughter


Narang began his stint

at CRIS in 1995 as deputy chief system manager and regional manager of PRS —

Northern Railway. Prior to this, he spent around three years each at National

Informatics Center and Steel Authority of India, followed by a longer tenure

with the Central Road Research Institute as the head of the computer center.

According to Narang, “dirtying” his hands at practical work on field during

the initial years has been instrumental in firming up the fundamentals for

handling his present assignment. “Getting your hands dirty is critical in

learning to climb the ropes. Even when you reach the level of heading the IT

operations, the job is not done with merely conceptualizing, as one has to see

it through the light of the day and further ensure that it is maintained as

well,” he explains.   

Narang joined SAIL in

January 1983 at the steel giant's Rourkela plant, and later moved to EDP

department of Bhilai Steel Plant a year later. At SAIL, he was involved in the

applications related to inventory management and preventive maintenance

schedules of the open-hearth furnaces. The EDP department was then not a part of

the mainstream IT that was beginning to evolve around that time. NIC was

becoming the hub of IT activities. With a desire to work in the midst of the

mainstream activity, he moved to NIC and became part of the team of the newly

incorporated Operational Research and Modeling Group. The group was set up to

carry out scientific studies based on operation research, statistics and

simulation techniques.

At NIC, he was

involved in the development of scientific applications requiring forecasting of

data. According to Narang, the applications being developed and used at that

time were akin to the data mining and business intelligence tools of today.

“Even at that time, we were using the technology which is being used in data

mining applications today. The work that I was involved in at NIC was at the

forefront of the technology,” he explains.

According to Narang,

"dirtying" his hands at practical work on field during the

initial years has been instrumental in firming up the fundamentals for

handling his present assignment

His key projects at

NIC included application for forecasting the fertilizer demand for the next 20

years for the Fertilizer Association of India. Another challenging assignment

was developing a system for simulating the dwelling time, service time for the

containers as well as the container capacity requirements at depots. The

application was based on the general purpose simulation system (GPSS), which was

something very new at that time.

However, eyeing bigger

challenges, Narang beckoned the call from Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).

He points out that the opportunity to head the computer center at CRRI was

tempting enough to make him move out of NIC. It was not only the opportunity to

be at the helm of the IT affairs but also the challenge of setting up the center

right from scratch. This also brought in its wake new responsibilities, which

according to Narang, helped him gain a better understanding of technology from

all perspectives.


According to Narang,

whenever a new system was to be installed, it was a challenging task deciding

whether to go for it or not, as the responsibility had increased manifold. But

with the responsibility, also came the learning experience that provided a

holistic view on IT. “It was a different experience altogether. Only then, I

realized that software/application development is a small part of the whole

lifecycle and only the tip of the iceberg. Other aspects like selection,

procurement, customizing, making the system run, and then ensuring that it runs

successfully through its whole lifecycle are equally critical and make up for

the complete IT systems within an organization,” he says. Narang was

responsible for the installation of the fire system, air-conditioning, and all

the basic systems right up to the hardware, software, and setting up of the LAN

and a state-of-the-art computer laboratory.

Apart from his main

work, he also undertook the task of encapsulating the entire knowledge written

in the manuals by the researchers and scientists and putting it into a software.

The exercise also helped him develop the flair for writing. He has written two

books titled Object Oriented Interfaces and Databases (2002) and Database

Management System (2004).

Cruising through CRIS

After six years at CRRI, he shifted gears in 1995 to again enter the

mainstream of IT activity. He moved to CRIS as deputy chief system manager in

February that year, and thereafter graduated to the post of regional manager in

September 1996 to head the northern region of the passenger reservation system (PRS).

This was followed by his promotion to the post of chief system manager in May



His first assignment

at CRIS involved the migration of the entire passenger related data of the PRS,

from the system developed by CMC, to the new system developed by CRIS for the

Delhi site. The porting of the database required that all the passenger

reservations for Delhi be closed for a day.

Narang successfully

carried out the project, and this made him realize that his work directly

affected the common man.

Unreserved Ticketing

The realization has become even more pronounced as he spearheads the

unreserved ticketing system (UTS) project. Automating the unreserved system is

currently a big thrust area for the Railways with a majority of the investments

going into this initiative. The criticality of the project for Railways, CRIS

and for Narang can be gauged from the fact that the system concerns over 95% of

train passengers. The UTS has already been commissioned in over 400 booking

locations across the country with around 2,000-3,000 users issuing the tickets

through the system, with a target to cover around 1,520 locations by the year



The system is aimed at

improving customer satisfaction, revenue generation, accounting and reporting

capabilities while reducing fraud. Most certainly, Narang is aware of the

immense responsibility that rests on his shoulders to successfully see through

the commissioning of the project throughout the country.

Source: Dataquest