Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Increased Speed Post rates could give courier services a boost

With the presence of the PNLIT Store on eBay Charity, I've become a regular user of India Post and courier service companies – to dispatch purchases that have been made by donor buyers. We've had buyers from all parts of India, from large cities like Delhi and Mumbai to small towns like Chittoor and Soraba. To minimize our costs, I've always been on the look out for the cheapest way of shipping the products. So I've had the opportunity of experiencing the different India Post products and those of courier service companies too.

We're all aware that recently there have been price increases for various things. So when I visited the local post office on 1st Oct, I wasn't really surprised when I was told that the Speed Post rate had been increased. While an increase was not surprising, the quantum of increase certainly was.

With effect from 1st October 2012, local Speed Post (within the city) for packages upto 50 gm increased from Rs 12/- (inclusive of taxes) to Rs 15/- (exclusive of taxes). This works out to Rs 17/-, a 42% increase.

In keeping with its 'One India, One Rate' scheme where a package, weighing upto 50 gm, could be sent anywhere within India for a flat rate of Rs 25/- (inclusive of taxes), India Post has retained its single pricing upto 50 gm, but the increase is steep - the cost is now Rs 35/- (exclusive of taxes) which works out to Rs 39/-, a 56% increase. For packages above 50 gm, Speed Post has introduced differential pricing depending on the destination. More information is available on the India Post website.

With the increase in Speed Post rates, the price difference between courier service companies and Speed Post has narrowed down. One can get intra-city courier delivery at about the same rate as Speed Post. In fact, a courier service could actually be cheaper. For example, a 250 gm packet from Mumbai to Bangalore presently costs Rs 50/- by DTDC Courier, while through Speed Post one would pay Rs 60/- (exclusive of taxes) which works out to Rs 67/-.

Also, Speed Post has not been fully reliable, for me. Why is Speed Post not so reliable? In May, I'd sent a packet from Bangalore to a buyer in Delhi by Speed Post at Rs 25/-. In ten days, the envelope came back undelivered with the scrawl "Address not found". After rechecking with the buyer on his mobile, I was assured that the address was complete so I used a courier service to send the packet to the same address. It cost me double the Speed Post rate, but the packet was delivered in a couple of days. A written complaint to India Post received a written reply from them with a weak explanation of how the neighbours could not direct the postman to the address. There was no response as to why the Speed Post postman had not followed the delivery regimen – where more than one visit was to be made and the contact number provided was to be called to in case the address could not be located.

Rates remain unchanged for Ordinary post (Rs 5/- for upto 20 gm), Registered Post (Rs 22/- for upto 20 gm) and Registered Parcel Post (Rs 36/- for upto 500 gm). Registered Post and Registered Parcel Post have both worked well - for very light (under 20 gm) and heavy (close to 500 gm) packages respectively. Ordinary post, however, is avoidable. The days of separate boxes for local mail (green box), metro mail (blue box) and other mail (red box), when ordinary post was not so ordinary, seem to be over. It seems as if ordinary post is now only for those who cannot afford the 'premium' Speed Post or a courier service. If your packet doesn't reach its destination, there's no way of getting one's grievance addressed here, so one would be considered lucky if it reached at all.

All things considered, India Post is likely to to face stiffer competition than before, from reliable courier service providers, especially in places that have a keen presence of courier companies and/or if the post office is not within walking distance.

The Indian letter box through the years, depicted on a miniature sheet

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Workshop well enjoyed

The Nature Journalling Workshop on 7th October morning at Puttenahalli Lake, JP Nagar, was filled to capacity (limited to 15 participants) and was well enjoyed. The workshop was conducted by award winning illustrator Sangeetha Kadur and Shilpashree of Greenscraps, as a part of the "Nature in the city" event organised by ATREE, INTACH, Citizen Matters and Red Frames.

Pics: Vijay Kumar, PNLIT volunteer
Nov 16: Read a report on the workshop here

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nature in the City, Oct 4-7 2012

7th Oct - Nature Journalling Workshop at Puttenahalli Lake

Classes at Puttenahalli Lake

The response to PNLIT's request for volunteer teachers to help the children from the slum abutting Puttenahalli Lake was overwhelming! 15 people volunteered their services for various subjects. Usha Rajagopalan, who initiated this activity, found out that classes are already being held in the temple located in the slum. She met the temple priest and the teacher Mrs Rajeshwari, who said that some students were in need of supplementary tuition and closer attention in certain subjects.

Vivek Krishna and Vijay Kumar are the volunteers coordinating the PNLIT Teachers. Classes are being fixed with students at mutual convenience and any breaks or complaints about absenteeism are reported to them for follow up with the parents/the temple priest. 

The first class at the lake gazebo on 25th August was a 1-to-1, where Mr Rajagopalan taught Physics to Deepubai of Std X. While there are many children who are enthusiastic to gain from extra classes to understand their school subjects better, there is a specific interest in spoken English and Computer Science and these are the subjects for which classes are currently being  conducted.

First class at the lake Pic: Usha Rajagopalan 

Mr Narayanan, a resident from BM Mayflower has been teaching spoken English on Sundays. In one of his reports after just a couple of classes, he wrote, "Today 3 students came. They brought 2 others too. These 3 are smart. I hope they continue. They talked more in English than Kannada today."

Vijay Kumar had a two-hour Computer Science session with five children last Sunday evening. They learnt about computer user logins, types of OS and MS Office basics with hands on practicals.

Computer excitement Pic: Vijay Kumar

The location of the classes has been a talking point. Some of the parents of the children wanted the classes to be held either at their homes or the temple. The temple has constant distractions with bell ringing and movement of devotees and many of our volunteers were not comfortable with this. The classes at the gazebo have been going well thus far, and it will be a pity if the children are held back from learning because of the location.  

Inputs: Vivek Krishna, Vijay Kumar, Usha Rajagopalan