While the economic reforms in India were initiated with perceptible changes in the banking sector, another important sector which has been remarkable in terms of reach into the rural India as also the savings it generates is left terribly stranded. The mammoth Indian Postal department faces an uphill task in the wake of its failure in modernising its majority of post-offices.
The department has had a dubious distinction of bringing computerisation in only 0.011% of its 155,837 branches. Including 506 Head Offices, the Postal department has computerised only 1,772 upto March 2004. It is contended that at this pace complete computerisation can only be expected in decades. To make matters worse, it has been reported that though the business volume of speed post has increased from Rs.780 million in 1997-98 to about Rs.3 billion in 2004, its share in the sector has come down drastically to only 10%. More importantly, the Postal department is incurring losses in 24 of the 38 services it offers. Depending on the Central Budget for taking care of its 'universal social obligations', this behemoth ironically has the potential to emerge as the power house of future.
With about 89% of branches in rural or semi-urban areas, the postal department also happens to be the largest bank in the country in terms of network, accounts and annual deposits. It is in the mobilisation of these savings through effective modernisation & computerisation, which can effectively metamorphose the postal department from a loss making to a profit making agency.