For centuries, rulers such as Qutb-ud-din- Aibak and Sher Shah Suri maintained an efficient messenger system where important political and military news was relayed by ‘runners’ on foot or on horses. The common man had no such system at his service.
Later, in the 1830s, the East India Company and the British took the first steps in laying the foundations of a more efficient and modern postal system in India.
New innovations like the postal stamp, the post card, the parcel service and the telegram were introduced over the decades. The trusted ‘dakiya’ or postman with the modest and humble money order began establishing an emotional connection regularly with millions of Indian homes.
Like many other institutions such as the Indian Railways and the Indian Civil Services, the postal system was also one of the great legacies initiated, built and left behind by the British in India. Today the institution is known as India Post (https://www.indiapost.gov.in/vas/Pages/IndiaPostHome.aspx).
Alive and kicking after more than 180 years: India Post or the ‘post office’ is the most widely distributed postal system in the world with 154939 post offices as on 31st March, 2015.
These include a floating post office amidst a lake in Srinagar, an ice bound post office at Dakshin Gangotri in Antarctica and the world’s highest altitude (4,700 m) post office at Hikkim in Himachal Pradesh! The reach of post offices in rural and urban India is unbeatable. India Post has twice the reach of all the banks in India put together!
The Department of Posts is a part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India. It has grown to be India’s third largest employer after the Indian Railways and the Armed Forces, with over 466000 employees as of 2015.
The British years (1858-1947)
Following the Indian Mutiny or the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the British Crown took over all control of India from the East India Company. Existing Company run post offices were handed over to the Crown and by 1861 there were nearly 900 post offices in British India.
The period saw the introduction of several Acts to grow the postal services and govern the activities of the postal departments. These included the introduction of Post Office Savings Banks in 1882, Postal Life Insurance for staff in 1884, The Telegraph Act 1885 to popularize and regulate telegrams that had started around the 1850s and the first official Air-Mail service in the world in 1911. In 27 minutes, an aircraft covered a distance of 18 km from Allahabad to Naini, delivering some 6000 letters and postal cards!
After nearly 180 years of service, technological advancements such as the mobile phone, SMS and e-mails were scheduled to deal a deadly blow to the telegram in July 2013 when the telegram service was finally withdrawn!
From Independence (1947) to the digital era!
Since 1947, India Post has dedicated itself to the socio-economic development of the country. Its vast network supports the Government of India by delivering economic programs and hundreds of savings, investment, insurance and money transfer products to Indians through reliable, last mile connectivity. ‘Service before self’ has been the motto of India Post since 1959.
Today, India Post products and services span everything from mail products, mail services to business and financial services and philately. You can even purchase ‘Ganga jal’ or the sacred water from the holy Ganges at a post office located close to you!
Post Office Saving Plans for every kind of need
India Post has a variety of saving plans to meet the different needs of different individuals. These range from short, medium and long term saving plans to monthly income plans, senior citizens plans and more.
Postal Life Insurance
Introduced in 1884 as an employee welfare scheme for staff of the Department of Posts, as of March 2015 it had more than 6.4 million policies covering postal employees, Central and State undertaking employees, and employees of Nationalized Banks, Government Schools and Universities etc.
In 2015, India Post won approval from the RBI to set up a payment bank. The plan is to offer banking services through its vast network by opening a Post Bank of India. One can imagine the convenience such a bank will deliver to customers in rural India where India Post enjoys great trust and brand equity.
Philately for stamp collectors
The first adhesive postal stamp in Asia called the “Scinde Dawke” worth half anna was introduced in 1852. Pictorial stamps were first printed in 1931 and featured Purana Qila and other Government buildings. Independent India’s first stamp released in 1947 depicted the Indian flag with a slogan Jai Hind.
India has also printed stamps for some neighboring countries such as Bhutan, Nepal and Burma in the past. India was the first commonwealth country to issue airmail stamps.
India Post continues to support philately through philatelic bureaus and counters that provide stamp collectors with special or commemorative stamps with first-day covers and information sheets. A philately magazine is published and the department also helps support the National Philatelic Museum of India.
Army Postal Service
This highly subsidized mail and package service is for the armed forces of India. Military mail is sent between duty stations in India or abroad and is also available to military personnel in combat zones. In many cases the service is free!
Leveraging technology for E-Commerce, Money Transfers and Premium Business Services
To stay relevant to the increasing service expectations of the modern, technological savvy India customer, India Post launched Project Arrow in 2008. Massive investments were made in IT, HR and infrastructure. The investments were also vital to capitalize on new business opportunities in the areas of business mail, logistics, international remittances and e-commerce.
Several innovative and customer focused products were introduced where technology was leveraged to increase delivery and performance standards for customers.
The boom in e-commerce has seen the department’s revenues grow exponentially. Millions of cash-on-delivery and pre-paid consignments are delivered by India Post every month. As per Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, revenues of India Post from such deliveries could go up to Rs. 15 billion in 2015-16.
Many other product or service success stories include speed post, business post, express parcel, and international money transfer services such as electronic fund transfers and mobile money transfer services.
By adapting to change and offering new products and premium, customized solutions, India Post is staying relevant. IT is being used to increase operational efficiencies and customer service, while generating new and more profitable lines of business.