India Post is reinventing itself to cater to the burgeoning e-commerce services industry in the country by setting up data centres, arming the postman with handheld devices and implementing software for facilities like cash on delivery (CoD).
The India Post modernisation project is being supervised by an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee, which includes officials from Finance Ministry, Department of Electronics and Information Technology and other stakeholders, according to sources.
The aim is to cash in on the growing demand for delivery and logistics in the e-commerce space.
(Also see: India Post Eyes $9 Billion E-Commerce Business; Promises Live Tracking)
India Post, with its huge network and experience in handling mail and parcels, is the best agency to provide pan-India delivery service, sources said.
According to market analysts, India's online retail space is estimated to be worth over $6 billion (roughly Rs. 37,191 crores) with delivery and logistics comprising around 10-12 percent.
India Post has about 1.55 lakh post offices, making it the world's largest postal network. On an average, a post office serves 21.21 sq km area and about 7,175 people.
The project is also looking at providing standard web- based integration system and an end-to-end tracking service for the e-commerce firms. This will also enable the Department to undertake large consignments of goods and services.
India Post will also provide handheld devices to about 15,000 postmen and other hardware in mail offices, with procurement expected to be completed by December 2015.
These devices would enable connectivity in rural areas, it said.
"Besides, software are being created for real time delivery data updation, money remittance systems for Cash on Delivery (CoD)/electronic generation and settlement of bills and interface with tracking systems of Railways and Airlines for complete visibility," a source said.
India Post will also have multiple access channels like PoS, portal, mobile site and call centre for information, complaint management and article booking.
"To roll out these services, the modernisation project has various initiatives to augment capacities like setting up of data and recovery centres, software for money remittances services, etc," the source added.
A primary data centre has already been operationalised in Mumbai and work is on for a data recovery centre (to be set up in Mysore by December this year).
"Besides, software solutions for mail operations, money remittances (CoD), retail business, inventory management, Finance & Accounts is being worked on and this is likely to be rolled out by December next year," sources said.
Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said India Post with its rural, urban and semi-urban reach was best-suited to offer delivery services to e-commerce players.
Already, the West Bengal circle of the Postal Department has approached various industrial bodies with a plan to create an online marketplace for local traders.