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indiapost.gov.in

 Indian Summer - L. K. Puri, India Post         

 The global communications revolution has forced postal administrations to examine closely their products, procedures, processes, and the way they have conducted business for the past 150 years or so. Postal services throughout the world are sustaining losses. They are caught in a vicious circle of poor financial performance, causing a lack of investment in the sector, thereby preventing improvement in the quality of service, which in turn leads to lower usage. The pressures of an unregulated market and the responsibility of providing a universal service also act as constraints. 

A study commissioned by the World Bank shows a (-ve) three per cent return on sales worldwide, with postal organisations in developing countries showing 30 per cent. The same study, however, indicates (according to information collected worldwide) that investments in posts declined between 1983 and 1993, particularly in developing countries.

 India Posts has also faced a number of constraints on its resources. It is therefore essential that precious available funds be alloted to those areas that would especially enable India Post to improve its products and services. It has therefore utilised funding to introduce new technologies in certain core areas of activity, such as computerisation of post office operations, transfer of money via satellite, and automation of mail processing in major metropolitan cities, which obviously generate very high volumes of mail. By doing so, India Post has developed certain capabilities that it is keen to share with other postal organisations.

 There is an urgent need to improve and monitor services provided to both internal and external customers. Consequently, the convergence of communication and information technologies is viewed as an opportunity to meet these requirements by a large number of postal administrations. Since the beginning of the 1990s India Post has been implementing diverse technologies, from computer to satellite technology, to improve its operation.

 STABLE SOLUTIONS

 Recently, India Post developed a composite software- Meghdoot’98- to handle all post office operations. India Post developed this comprehensive software solution by applying its experience within the postal business to harness client/server technology. All postal businesses can be managed using this software, from branches to head post offices. Opening system and client/server technology enable full integration with the platforms, databases and systems already in place.

 All postal organisations need to: 

Apply national and international regulations accurately. 

. Ensure that all post offices work in the same way and within the framework of the same rules and regulations. 

. Exert complete control over all operations, particularly those at the point of interface with customers. 

. Provide improved customer service in terms of speed and efficiency as well as the range of services offered. 

. Receive at the national level a comprehensive and accurate accounting and statistical data concerning counter operations. 

All national and international (UPU) rules and regulations are entered as parameters in the software, which is used in all post offices nationwide as the basis for counter and back-room operations. In this way it is ensured that rules and regulations are applied correctly throughout the postal network. Other salient features of the software are:

 . Full automation of counter operations, ensuring security of cash flow and accurate tracking of all operations, 

. Meghdoot ’98 provides a wide range of services at multifunction counters, thereby reducing queuing time and enhancing customer service, 

. The software gives postmasters complete visibility and control over all operations. They can at any time check or even cancel counter operations. All cancelled operations are logged in a report.

 . The automatic accounting functioning ensures that the appropriate accounting entry is made for each counter operation. These entries are then used for end of shift, end of day, and end of month reconciliation procedures. 

. Reconciliation procedures allow the postmaster to check accounting entries that have been generated automatically against real cash, stamps, money orders and other transactions. 

. After validation, data is consolidated in the post office concerned;

 . Access management and password control based on the organisation of the post office concerned ensure security at all levels. For example, the postmaster access authorisation level gives access to all operator modules, while other users can only access the particular segment in which they are working. Only the postmaster can add or modify data already entered at a counter. Moreover, a comprehensive series of data entry ensures that only conforming data can be entered; 

. The software guides, prompts, and checks the user at ll stages of data entry, enabling even inexperienced operators to perform all types of operations, Its intuitive menu provides checks and controls to guide the operator. The need for training is therefore minimal.

The software architecture enables modules to be built around a core system, which handles operations that are common to all postal services, The core system manages front-and back-office operations and close-of-day transfer of data to a central system. The software provides for booking of EMS, registered articles, money orders and payments relating to bills and postal orders over the counter. 

Building a solution around the operator’s business is simplified by the modular approach, The software is designed for use in all working conditions, and can be easily customised and adapted to the specific needs of any postal organisation.

 Modification of any rules or parameters in the software, such as foreign exchange rates and tariffs, is simple. Database management functions allow updating and distribution of these national parameters, and updates can be transferred in a file transfer or diskette. 

The back-office functions provide the postmaster with the necessary functionality for daily control and security in post offices, A number of functions can be performed, including issue, control, and receipt of cash, stamps, and other items of value to and from the counter.

 The software provides full security and confidentiality, Automatic accounting functions are carried out by the software at the end of the day. The postmaster’s role is limited to triggering automatic calculation, checking the results, and validation.

 India Post runs the largest savings bank in India on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, with deposits of over USS23.6 billion. It earns more than US S 225 million from fees charged to the Ministry of Finance for running this bank. In recent years India Post has been computerising its processes to enable it to provide better service to its customers. It has developed a savings bank software-Sanchay Post- which can handle many different savings bank schemes, including fixed and recurring deposits. Like Meghdoot’98, this software has been developed on Windows NT with SQL server being used for database management. Sanchay Post and Meghdoot ’98 can handle all operations in any post office. More than 10 million transactions are performed every month using these software systems in over 1,200 post offices across India. 

STATION TO STATION 

Indian Post has also harnessed satellite technology for performing money transfers. Since the mid- 1990s. 77 earth stations have been set up; these are mainly used for money transfer throughout India.

 In the previous manual system, money orders underwent eight handllings, which resulted in considerable delays – on average it took 8 to 10 days to precess a money order from the point of origin to its destination. Information about where the money order was paid was not available and matching of issues and payments for proper accounting and auditing was not always possible; consequently a remittance was limited to a maximum of USS 125. 

Transferring money via satellite has reduced the number of handlings to two or three, money orders now reach even remote destinations within a couple of days. End-to-end information is available on the status of money order and matching of issues and payments takes place automatically in a central server. Money orders up to US$5,000 can now be remitted.

 The cost of sending a money order via satellite is only US$0.40, compared with US$0.80 using the traditional system. While the cost of sending a money order manually continues to rise according to increases in manpower costs, the cost of money order sent electronically continues to decrease depending on volumes. The system can be networked to a large number of post offices through a computer by using the public telephone network.

 India Post is installing a further 170 earth stations to enable the total annual money transfer of approximately USS 1 billion to be performed via satellite. This network will also be India Post’s Intranet for management information systems.

 THE WAY AHEAD 

The introduction of new technologies into India Post would not have been possible without improving the skills of its workforce. India Post therefore invested around USS 1 million to create the necessary infrastructure, particularly for training on various operating systems and application softwares. It is currently training more than 10,000 personnel each year. India Post has the capabilities to provide the necessary computer skills to personnel in any organisation, especially posts. Its innovative approach to IT enables it to provide solutions to its clients, according to specific requirements, that can be integrated with existing systems, Furthermore, Meghdoot ’98, Sanchay Post and satellite technology can be customised to meet the requirements of any postal organisation. 

 

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