Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Oct 30, 2009
ePaper | Mobile/PDA Version | Audio | Blogs
Supply Chain Management
Pillar to post office
If you’ve got mail, everyone here knows about it.
Early one Sunday morning our internet went out, and we waited till the telephone exchange reopened on Tuesday to record a complaint. They would send the broadband engineer right away, they said, and Saar was confident they had understood the urgency of it. We fancied that, as journalists, we had a star next to our names on the roving engineer’s printout of faulty connections. Late Wednesday evening, I saw the engineer and his long printout. Not only was our name buri ed in the list, but, because of our remote location, he had shuffled us to the bottom. Four days, a dozen phone calls, and a personal visit later, our port was reconnected at the exchange and I came home to broadband.
It was the kind of week that twirled me back into the friendly arms of snail mail. In Canada and the US, post offices in rural areas and small towns are closing because, their newspapers declare, most mail is delivered electronically. In Palakkad, the Head Post Office is about to inaugurate new premises and expand its services, especially in rural areas that are short of banks, insurance companies and railway ticket counters.
For the scattered population of Akathethara, at least 30,000 of us, there are two sub-post offices and two branch offices, with between five and seven postal workers on the rounds. In the compact villages near the town, there are more post offices but also more letters. In all these places, it is close personal contact that keeps the system working. An employee at State Bank of India says a recently retired postwoman who used to deliver bank documents to customers systematically tracked them down even when an address showed simply a name and a village.
When we first moved to Akathethara I ran into the postman at the bread shop and introduced myself. The shop owner explained to him exactly where our house was, in an area with landmarks such as “five acres” or “the fork at the canal”, and no road names at all. The postman found us the very first week.
Service is thoughtful even at the head post office. My uncle went in one morning to close a matured senior citizen deposit and found the counter temporarily shifted upstairs. But the postmaster seated him and sent a messenger upstairs to collect the form. The messenger came down, took my uncle’s signature, and went up again to bring back a receipt. When he went in the next day for his cheque, the messenger again went upstairs to get it for him.
Some weeks ago I sent two packets to Europe by Speedpost. The contents had to be inspected, and when I went to the head post office, the marketing executive was expecting me because a clerk from the Olavakkod post office had phoned to tell him I was coming. He inspected my packets, helped me retape them and gave me his card so that next time I could make sure he was there before I drove all the way to town. Speedpost would take about ten days to deliver, the counter clerk told me.
My packets reached Europe in a week. My friend in Zurich got hers at home, since it was within the 3 cm thickness limit that will go into a letter box. Otherwise it goes in the milk box below, she told me. If you don’t have a milk box, and you’re not home, you get “an advice” or slip of paper in your mailbox and go collect your mail from the post office. My friend in Warsaw was less fortunate. Since he was not at home to sign for the packet, he found an advice in his box and then drove 10 km to pick it up from the district post office. A private courier would have telephoned beforehand, stopped by at a better time, and put it right into his hands. But the costs were prohibitive.
In Akathethara, on the other hand, the post works faster than the private couriers, which send outgoing letters and parcels to Kochi before flying them out a day later. For incoming cheques and manuscripts, our editors and publishers in New Delhi send them by Speedpost because private couriers balk at riding uphill to our house, though they will deliver to Malampuzha, which is even further from town. We are often asked to pick up our packets from their town offices. As a great favour some couriers leave our manuscripts and cheques at our nearest bus stop, a kilometre away. Some franchisees are just layabouts with a cell phone, and they don’t bother at all.
Often, when our postman has panted up the road to our house, he finds we are out, so he leaves our letters with neighbours. If it is a registered letter, he doesn’t leave a slip, as that would oblige him to return it within a week if I were out of town and failed to pick it up. Instead, he tells my neighbours and, as soon as I come home, my neighbours tell me. Only one thing delays me when I go to the post office to collect my letter: I am stopped every half kilometre by a friend who tells me I must get to the post office right away to collect my letter.
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Stories on : Supply Chain Management
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | The Hindu ePaper | Business Line | Business Line ePaper | Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | The Hindu Images | Home |
Copyright © 2009, The
Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of
The Hindu Business Line