Snail mail is in the throes of rapid, fundamental and widespread change. With the introduction of other means of communication, the postal department’s growth has, contrary to popular perception, not quite been stalled. Far from it. A peek into the changes the department has undergone in the last two decades reveals that it has kept pace with the changing times — embracing technology, introducing innovation.
Traditional to modern
Twenty years ago, postal department’s traditional services were confined to delivering mails, accepting deposits in small savings schemes and postal life insurance service. “After the introduction of other means of communication, like mobile phones and internet, while personal communication has substantially reduced, business mails have considerably increased,” said Ganesh Sawaleshwarkar, Postmaster General, Pune Region.
At infrastructure level, he said, “Project Arrow” and “Mail Network Optimisation Project” were introduced. The projects aimed at creating a conducive and friendly work environment both for the staff and the customers visiting the post offices; providing all IT-enabled services through secure connectivity, improving the service quality levels in the core business areas i.e Mail delivery, remittances — both electronic and manual — and Postal Savings schemes.
Col (retd) K C Mishra, who served as the Postmaster General of Pune Region from 2010 to 2012 and also held the post of Chief Postmaster General of Maharashtra-Goa Circle before retiring in January 2014, says, “From 2006 onwards, postal department has witnessed changes at the conceptual level. It has changed its vision and has transformed. During my tenure in Pune, technology induction and advancement in post office was at an evolving stage in post offices. New infrastructure was introduced which included adoption of new hardware and software. The department has transformed in the past few years. Now postal department has become centres for passport and Aadhaar-related services too.”
However, the adoption of technology has resulted in a drop in the number of post offices as well as staff strength, though not drastically. While the total number of post offices in Pune city 20 years ago was 161, it is 149 now. In 1997, the total staff strength in Pune city postal department was 1,836. Today, it is 1,504.
The last 20 years has seen the Pune Postal Department introducing several new services which include Rural Postal Life Insurance; Speed Post, which leads the market in the domestic express industry; Speed Post International Service; Insurance of valuable consignments; 24-hours booking facility (available at Pune Railway Station TMO Counter); Internet-based Track and Trace system of Speed Post; SMS-based delivery status; free pick-up facility (for customers using Speed Post facility in bulk); Book Now Pay Later Facility (for corporate customers and regular users under specific terms and conditions); Volume-Based Discount Facility; Cash On Delivery for e-commerce companies/online sellers; Express Parcel & Business Parcel; and My Stamp (personalised sheets of postage stamps of India Post. In Pune City, My Stamp counter facility is available at Pune HO and Pune City HO).
In the area of technology, Pune Region postal department has seen the implementation of Core Banking Solution, Core Insurance Solution, Rural Information and Communication Technology and Core System Integration. ATM facility is now available for Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) customers of selected post offices of Pune City. Four ATMs are installed in Pune City at Pune HO, Pune City HO, Shivajinagar SO and Chinchwad East, which became interoperable w.e.f. December 30, 2016.
E-commerce: Moving with the times
In order to provide a fast, safe and economical solution of collection of amount of goods at the time of its delivery and its remittance to the sender, the postal department has introduced Cash on Delivery (COD) facility as value addition to the parcel services w.e.f. 02.12.2013 which is available to the contractual customers of Express Parcel, Business Parcel and Speed Post. Pune Region has tied up with 23 e-commerce customers, including Amazon and Agrostar. While Amazon is posting approximately 600 daily e-commerce parcels, Agrostar is posting approximately 1,000 consignments for rural farmers.
Competing with the private sector
A separate booking facility for bulk customers is available at Pune Head Office. On an average, 20,000 Speed Post articles (SPAs) are handled by this units. The articles of e-commerce companies like Amazon, FirstCry, Bank of Baroda and insurance companies are handled at this unit. A total of 241 customers in Pune City are availing the services at this location. A total of 149 post offices in Pune City are providing Speed Post Booking facility. A well-equipped and fully computerised National Sorting Hub is functioning in Pune City. On an average, 49,000 Speed Post articles are handled by this hub every day.
Besides, parcel is a focus area where Pune Region is making constant efforts to increase the market share. A well-equipped and fully computerised Parcel Hub is functioning in Pune City. On an average, 7,000 parcels are being dealt by this unit per day. Around 70 per cent growth in parcel traffic has been registered by Pune Region in the year 2016-17. In a unique initiative, Pune Region postal department appreciated the prominent customers by arranging “Grahak Samman Samaroh” last week wherein the customers were given a “letter of appreciation”.
Training of staff
In Pune City, three Workplace Training Centres are functional. Pune Region has also conducted training for Gramin Daak Sevaks through WCTCs on operational matters and postal technology. The staff of Pune City has undergone trainings in respect of various IT Modernisation Project i.e. Core Banking Solution, Core Insurance Solution, Rural Information and Communication Technology, Core System Integration.