L. K. Puri,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
postal organisations need to:
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.