India’s largest IT services company is set to modernise India’s postal system with a comprehensive strategy that could soon see India operate the world’s largest ePostal network.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on Monday announced it has partnered with Department of Posts to develop a multi-service digital hub for the delivery of mail and packages with the help of its Core System Integration (CSI) programme, targeting 1.5 lakh post offices across the country.
This would not only enhance customer experience but also transform the postal services as we know it, by integrating a lot of other innovative services that will drive new revenues, TCS said in a statement.
How will this transformation take place?
One part of the CSI programme that TCS has planned and developed is already in the works. It involves the deployment of an integrated ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution to automate mail operations, finance, and accounting and HR functions of over 5 lakh employees.
The system will simultaneously cater to services of over 40,000 concurrent users and process over 3 million postal transactions a day, making it the largest SAP implementation in the world in terms of scale.
Built keeping in mind the postal department’s immense scale and future needs, the solution will thus help to connect it to a network of more than 1.5 lakh post offices around the country, creating another record on that score.
On the front end
Another aspect of the programme is aimed at improving front-end operations for users. The Point of Sale solution has already seen the installation of over 80,000 PoS terminals across 24,000 post offices, making it, once again, one of the largest such implementations in the world.
Additionally, TCS has also built a web portal with consignment tracking capabilities and set up a multi-lingual call centre for customer support.
Will automation bring inclusion?
In 2013, the Mumbai-based company had announced receiving an over Rs 1,100-crore multi-year contract from the Department of Posts for an end-to-end IT modernisation programme. One of the primary reasons to revamp the department’s nation-wide reach was to drive financial inclusion and accessibility of postal services in remote areas.
Opportunities of financial inclusion via India’s new postal and banking system will usher in an era of full-fledged digital banking in the country, which has largely ignored the vast rural market until now.
According to World Bank’s Global Findex Report it released this April, more than 80% adults in India now have a bank account. Still, in absolute terms, close to 19 crore Indians do not have one. In addition, there is also a need to increase usage of bank accounts and formal channels of finance.
TCS introduced 1.3 lakh DARPAN (Digital Advancement of Rural Post Office for A New India) hand-held devices last year, which Gramin Dak Sevaks use to provide postal, banking, insurance, and cash management services in remote villages at the doorstep of those without network connectivity.
Keeping up with the world
Automation is also expected to make it easier for younger Indians, heavily dependent on digital technology, to access traditional mail services.
Debashis Ghosh, Head of Public Services division at TCS is reported as saying, “In a digital era, postal services across the world are reinventing themselves to stay relevant to a new generation.”
That is true; even though digital communication has taken over the world, it has also pushed postal and delivery services in developed countries to scale up. In the process, the state-owned postal operators in developed countries have undergone a profound change over the past few years, from increasing their logistical capabilities to meeting new demands, and expanding and modernising their networks.
“We are proud to have partnered with the Department of Posts in this pioneering, mission mode initiative to build a world class, future-ready digital platform that the nation can be proud of. With this, the department can offer smart postal services, enriched customer experiences, and innovative value-added services to the citizens of India,” Ghosh said on Monday.
But in all fairness, to keep its head above the water, the Indian postal system will also have to further adapt, innovate, and automate processes like address recognition, data management, and systems integration—perhaps even use advanced image analytics technology and artificial intelligence—to better organise and distribute post.
IPPB and what happens next
An efficient countrywide network of post offices provides government with many points of contact with its people for implementing administrative programmes in such fields as social security, taxation, and public information. When its operation is properly developed, the post office may also become one of the principal employers in a country, notes this report on postal systems in developing countries.
The DARPAN-PLI application, for example, has made it easier for rural people to pay their premiums after which their accounts are immediately updated and receipts generated. Insurance services revenue has increased by Rs 6 crore over the first quarter of 2018, informed Union Telecom and Railways Minister Manoj Sinha ahead of Indian Post Payments Bank’s (IPPB’s) launch last year.
In August 2018, the government formally inaugurated IPPB that saw the integration of 1.55 lakh post offices around the country with 650 payments banks. After successful pilot projects in Ranchi and Raipur in 2017, the fully implemented and integrated post payments system aims to reach at least 130 million Indians.
On an equally important note, TCS is enabling one of the country’s oldest organisations to try and resurrect its long-lost significance. A comprehensive postal service, as we all know, does not solely promote national cohesion; it also provides essential infrastructure for economic expansion.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius.