Saturday, July 08, 2017

SpeedPost Courier Racket

India Post works like magic these days. If you pack a handloom saree and send it by SpeedPost it magically transforms enroute, into a cheap rexine handbag!

This is exactly what happened to us last week. My wife had been eagerly waiting for her first "Dubakka" cotton handloom saree sent from Maanini Vastra Samskriti India PL (MVSI), Bangalore. Photos had been exchanged on WhatsApp, a design had been carefully chosen and confirmed. When the packet arrived by Speedpost (no. CK 02481962 5 IN) yesterday, it looked like a saree packet, it weighed like one, but when we opened it, the packet contained a tacky, cheap rexine handbag.

SpeedPost packet no. CK 02481962 5 IN

Puzzled, we called up MVSI immediately. Had they, by any chance, sent us a handbag that was meant for another customer? The answer was an emphatic "No!". The company did not deal in anything other than handlooms. In fact it had carefully built a reputation as a reliable partner to a larger initiative by a group of handloom enthusiasts from "Kaithari", a social network that had been working tirelessly for the revival of handlooms across South India.

At a time when artisans in remote villages in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were losing their livelihoods to a change in fashion trends, groups like Kaithari and MVSI had come together with a revival initiative, linking weavers in small towns like Udupi and Dubakka (AP) to markets in urban India. Over 1200 sarees of the "Udupi weave" had been sold by MVSI, and the "Dubakka weave" (aka Chitkula Sarees), was just beginning to notch up sales.

Convinced that this was not a mistake at MVSI we examined that Speedpost packet a little more carefully. The packed had indeed been tampered while in transit. The brown tape had been carefully sliced open with a blade, the contents switched, and the packed re-sealed with transparent cello-tape.

While a formal complaint is being registered with India Post / SpeedPost, the question is - Is this a one-off incident or does it represent a larger problem plaguing India's booming e-commerce industry?

Two years back in 2014-15, the postal department’s revenues from e-commerce majors had more than doubled to over Rs 1,000 crore, up from Rs 500 crore the previous year, and just Rs 100 crore in 2013-14. While the e-commerce majors get all the attention, fact remains that SpeedPost, with its unmatched national network, remains the first choice for entrepreneurs in remote corners of the country.

Many rural communities depend on Speedpost for their livelihoods. Unless strict action is taken against such pilferage "Make in India" and the fledgeling "Digital Economy"is bound to suffer. This is one magic-show that India Post customers can do without.



Dubakka Sarees aka Chituka Sarees -