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A post about the Post

October 4, 2007

Did you ever wonder how our post office is doing now that email has swamped the nation? Well, I did, and therefore this post. To start with, we are the largest in the world, reach-wise.

Here’s the chart:

Postal network — International Comparisons

True there are those who have reasons to criticize our postal system which is unwieldy because of labour laws (which means you can’t downsize or streamline), but I think that taking this into consideration we are doing great. We have to admit that our postal system is a giant, a giant corporation not focused on profits. Its a subsidized government public service. However, I feel that we shouldn’t simply dismiss or hate our postal system (which people are wont to do nowadays) as its got its good points. Why not see things in perspective?
Its not as if they have not modernized at all. Some of their relatively new initiatives are:

1. Their Speed Post courier service. Well, it costs just Rs 12 for local deliveries…what do you get for that much nowadays in India?
2. They have a Business Post service, what they call total mailing solutions.
3. ePayment too, for paying your bills. I bet you didn’t know that one.
4. One of the best and innovative things they have done is their epost. This service was launched in 2004. People can now simply sent an email from various post offices (or from the post website) and have it delivered in the form a letter to remote places. A modern technology put to the service of the people.
There there are other things like 5. Postal Life Insurance, 6. Money Order Service, 7. International Money Transfer service, and 8. MediaPost through which a company can use for direct mailing services.
9. Their website isn’t bad either…you can even find your pincode out there.

A little history
You can find the history of Indiapost at the wiki site. As you have probably guessed, it was the British who did it. They established post offices in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata from 1764-1766…

In need of greater modernization
True, the department of Indian Posts needs to become profitable pronto…considering that we are supposedly aiming to become a modern economy. But with all its faults, I do admire Indiapost’s ability to deliver letters from one remote village to another door to door and at ridiculously low rates. Their biggest strength is its network and because of that it can get pretty hard to run! A network of 1.5 lakh post offices! BUT, as long as our postal system cannot streamline its employees due to labour laws, cannot shut down non-profitable post offices (don’t know whether that would be ideal) and cannot increase prices, its going to remain a financial mess.

Personally, I have always had a good experience with the Indian postal service. And continue to have it. Some tell me that their letter was misplaced or their package lost…but I have ordered books from and they have reached me in good condition – all delivered by Speedpost. Perhaps some criminal infested districts in the country have a problem…but they have an overall law and order problem.

Will leave you with some images of a few new stamps. I was a fanatical collector of stamps when I was in school and stamps have never ceased to interest me:

Note: Source of the table : Dept. of Posts.
* All figures pertain to the year 2002 and have been drawn from the UPU publication on Statistics, December, 2003.
** As on 31.3.2003.
*** All figures pertain to the year 2001 and have been drawn from the UPU publication on Statistics, December, 2003

Related Reading: The inefficiency of the post office

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Bharath permalink
    October 4, 2007 1:34 pm

    Amazing post on post office.. I guess no private player has such huge network in India.. They need more n more intiatives n marketing.. Like BSNL did amazing job in past, why can’t IndiaPost?

    I look for following two value added services..

    1. For Business-Post – “Easy Pick Up Service”
    2. “Online tracking”

  2. October 4, 2007 2:01 pm

    Thanks for your response Bharath. I am a great admirer of our postal service, and after all this is one thing at which we have beaten the whole world!! We have a world record!!
    I mean we have our postmen in the countryside walking or cycling great distances to deliver letters…I think thats great.
    But yeah, I agree Indiapost needs better marketing! The problem is that a lot of untrained people there (who cannot be trained from what I read) are holding it back…
    However, as far as I know business post does have a pick-up service.
    but online tracking, no. That would be really great…and considering that they have been e-savvy in some things, so i think they might get to it.

    p.s your avatar is better!

  3. October 4, 2007 3:02 pm

    Hi Nita, thanks for writing about our oft-neglected postal service! I share the same exact feelings about it as you, and am glad that you’ve researched the facts to substantiate it…

    Like the Railways, another gift from the British!

    Our posts’s amazing reach gives it a unique position and command, but unfortunately it is not able to capitalize on it. They’ve proposed to invest Rs. 1400 crore to use advance technologies like RFID, and offer CRM services, but I don’t know if that proposal will be accepted.

    But it is really admirable how they’ve kept up with the times…

  4. October 4, 2007 3:03 pm

    PS: And thanks for the stamps! I share that fanaticism as well – of course, during younger days…:-)

  5. xntricpundits permalink
    October 4, 2007 3:54 pm

    Hi Nita
    thanks for the amazing post [yet another amazing post-after the post on ]sex selection .
    ….I mean we have our postmen in the countryside walking or cycling great distances to deliver letters…I think thats great.
    yes it is great that postmen cycling great distances..some times to deliver a single post.But the lackadaisical approach of government towards these postmen is outrageous.Hope system will change for good.
    thanks again

  6. October 4, 2007 4:00 pm

    Another good post, and another job better left to the private sector….

  7. October 4, 2007 4:02 pm

    Your ClustrMap is obscene. Its red dots are sprouting up like boils, and then spilling like oil from a tanker into the blue seas…
    Please get rid of this monstrosity!

  8. October 4, 2007 4:47 pm

    And to see how the UK’s own Royal Mail is coping with modernisation and competitiveness pressures, after deregulation of the postal sector:

  9. October 4, 2007 5:08 pm

    Considering the huge population of employable youths in India and also that most of the job applications are still sent through regular post, i do not see abolishment of the Indian Postal System in the near future.
    I personally like the Indian postal system and have no complains. Very rarely have i had anything misplaced. Not only postal service, but their financial schemes have helped millions. The interest rates are fantastic too.

  10. October 4, 2007 5:42 pm

    When I wrote this post I thought I wouldn’t get any comment at all, because I was sure that people would think of this as a dull subject.
    Thanks to all.

    Mahendra glad to meet another stamp collecter, even if it was in the past! Nowadays kids just don’t have any good hobbies!
    And thanks for that link about future investments. I think the proposal might be accepted…because I feel the time is ripe. But likely to get dragged around a bit…

    Rambodoc, I guessed you would say that. 🙂 About the clustermap I guess I have been thinking about it too, of late its become really a sight for sore eyes! Maybe I’ll change the way it records..I think they have an option where every month they tend to start from scratch…lets see. in the meantime I think I shall shift it downwards a bit…
    thanks for bringing that up. its been on my mind.

    Madhuri, like you pointed out, the Indian Postal system is our lifeblood! Just wish it made profits. I too like their interest rates and have in fact invested in one of their schemes.

    Shefaly, am amazed to hear that Britain is going through these pangs! If that is happening there, People are actually talking in terms of ‘demise’ of the system! I can just imagine what will happen if we try to modernize! A revolution! A complete break-down of communication that could cripple India. Thanks for passing that on…really makes you realise that well, these kind of things (job cuts) are a global concern, not just in a poor country without social security.

  11. October 4, 2007 5:50 pm

    Nita: There were many things that limited Royal Mail’s operations and growth before deregulation. Amongst others these included minimum service commitments and price caps. I liken processes of transition – esp faced by the incumbent – following de-regulation as an ugly sausage making process. That is what Royal Mail is experiencing right now.

    Then there is the consumer and the business customer divide. The latter benefits quicker from deregulation and pricing improvements resulting from competition. Unlike the US – where in apartment blocks, the postman will collect outgoing post – in the UK, we still need letter boxes or post offices to send our mail. That means that either new competitors take on existing infrastructure or create new infrastructure, which could be expensive and hence unattractive. But when strikes happen it is the consumer sector user of post that is screwed…

    The deregulation of state monopolies in the UK is a fascinating area and the variety of models is quite intriguing.

    PS: Re Rambodoc’s comment: sight for sore eyes or just sore for sighting eyes? 😉

  12. October 4, 2007 6:17 pm

    Shefaly, thanks for coming back and explaining that. Looks like you’ve been living there a very long time…!
    About Rambodoc’s comment… 🙂 pssst…hope he isn’t listening in! actually i think he might not be…he’s up to his neck in a rainbow of fire…red dots and all.

  13. October 4, 2007 7:18 pm

    Nice post, Nita. I have been an admirer of the postal system in India too. They still work with limited technology and yes, so far, there hasn’t been any missing post which is admirable!
    The post office and its employees do need the due recognition. Thanks for posting.

  14. October 4, 2007 7:26 pm

    Nita: Thanks. I have lived in a few countries and a total of 20 cities (I think) in my short life. I am usually interested in the local and larger national politics and markets and general cultures of places so I gather these things by absorbing from a range of experiences, stories, press coverage and friends’ experiences.. Nothing special. 🙂

  15. October 4, 2007 8:10 pm

    Wishtobeanon, thanks for commenting. 🙂
    Shefaly, 20 cities is a lot…I guess thats something similar to mine (i’m an army kid) and we were in africa too, though not many countries as you probably have been.

  16. October 4, 2007 8:26 pm

    Hi Nita: I am not even an Army child. I managed all this in pursuit of my education and my career… 😎 Yes 20 cities is a bit much but it does make it easy to feel universal belonging (which may explain some of the things I say which appear un-Indian or strange to other readers). Thanks.

  17. October 4, 2007 11:46 pm

    I just read a couple of your food postings, and thank you so much for the information.

    So many interesting posts!

    You are welcome Kumudha – Nita.

  18. October 5, 2007 10:59 am

    xntricpundits, just recovered your comment from spam. Thanks for the appreciation…and about the postmen I believe they have strong unions…

  19. anuragsaurabh permalink
    October 6, 2007 2:20 am

    Your blog is wonderful, its going to help me a lot. your stats r really informative ,one finds a lot of things at one place.. and and in my wildest imagination i would not have not thought of postal dept of india.
    Net penetration is still too low in India..and courier service is restricted to urban areas only…its still life line in rural areas where people survive on money orders from their kith and kins..
    i have read some of the letters that grand father sent to my father when he was at boarding school, there are around 500 letters kept separately in transparent polythene….u get the feeling, which is missing in e-mails..even i have some 50 letters which i read whenever i need some inspirations or when i m feeling depressed..
    Postal is reliable as well, its late some time, and i have felt that the employees working in postal dept. are realising they would perish if they don’t mend their ways….the government should convert all post offices into semi banks..where one could get loans too..
    one more question how do u manage to answer all the comments and views.. don’t u get bored or get the feeling ..ah! leave it ..

    u really inspire me …how to be patient…
    with regards

  20. October 6, 2007 2:59 pm

    Anurag, thanks. 🙂 btw, your comment had slipped into spam and therefore the late answer. also welcome. I know you had commented once before, on the south india post, but did not give you much of a reply there. I get tired of answering comments on that post nowadays!
    about answering comments, it gets difficult at times, and yes sometimes I do leave it. But I don’t get bored. I love people, and love talking to them. On the net, I get an opportunity to talk to people I would never have met in real life.

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