Post Office are a familiar sight in India and one is used to them functioning in a typical style of a Government office with babudom presiding the well established routines at work.
I had received a confirmation that my renewed Passport was in transit and local post office could help me receive it. After waiting for a couple of days, I felt it was best to catch the postman before he set out on his beat. My visit to the post office proved to be an illuminating one.
A small queue greeted me at the narrow entrance to the post office as I set out in earnest on an early morning to get my work done. By then the clock showed that it was 10 minutes past the normal opening time but such delays are well understood by the Indian populace and we even crack jokes about the dilatoriness of what is popularly known as ‘Indian Standard Time’.
I saw the man at the head of the queue preening into the box like window as he patiently waited for the staff at the desk to help me. The patience is again well explained – it makes little sense to rile a Babu early in the morning and one may not quite know what would be the unintended consequences of such temerity. Indeed the customer prefers to don a propitiatory air to get his work done and move on.
Eventually we all got in – the office was roomy inside and I found a guy waiting impatiently to get his parcel weighed and stamped. The counter was unattended and he had little choice but to wait. In fact one could see many staff who could have possibly helped the man but one was used to them functioning in an automaton mode. No one would lift a finger and step up to deliver anything beyond the narrow template of his defined objectives and customer’s need were low in the list of priorities.
It is a lot to do with the System than the people – the behaviors rewarded are not one for taking initiative rather the perennial focus is to ensure rules are followed and no mistakes are made. Obviously innovation suffers in such a scenario. It was reflected in the patronage of postal services as well. For a while the ‘Speed Post’ service was quite popular with the customers but rather than build on its success, the service lost out rather easily to the local courier services that sprouted all around and took away market share from the leader. They were eager and early adopters of technology that enabled them to offer valuable features such as real-time tracking of your order.
I saw a lady clerk struggle to calculate interest manually and update the passbook for an account holder. This seemed to be so primitive and error prone in the digital era where computing could add such convenience and efficiency to these routine chores.
The clerk greeted me with a smile – that was a welcome change for one – and could informed me the details of the postman who was carrying my passport. He was very helpful and explained that as per the routine beat the postman should visit my home after a couple of hours. I was quite relieved and happy to go back home to await the delivery of my post. Really such people are the bulwark of the great Indian Post network but sadly they are not quite in sync with the times. There is such great potential that is laid waste by the lack of a continuous pursuit of excellence.