The ubiquitous postmen, who deliver letters, parcels and money orders across the country, are probably being primed to don the role of part-time bankers, going by the aggressive plan of the government-owned India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) to buy smartphones and biometric devices.

IPPB, which was incorporated as a public limited company with 100 per cent government holding under the Department of Posts on August 17, 2016, is looking to procure about 1.6 lakh smartphones and about 2.7 lakh biometric devices (scanners) to facilitate doorstep banking. Its tagline, after all, is “ Aapka bank, aapke dwaar (Your bank at your doorstep)”.

This aggression in procuring electronic devices that will help it source and service customers across the country shows the new bank is throwing down the gauntlet to its competitors.

The battle to mop up deposits, provide payment and remittance services, and distribute (on a non-risk sharing basis) simple financial products such as insurance and mutual fund products is indeed hotting up.

Starting with the launch of 3,250 access points, IPPB said it will be spreading its footprint and leveraging the vast postal network of nearly 1.55 lakh post offices and three lakh postal employees to serve its customers in every district, town and village.

Minister of State for Communications Manoj Sinha, in a reply to the Lok Sabha in March, said the bank has launched a pilot branch each in Raipur and Ranchi.

“There would be complete integration of IPPB branches with the 1.55 lakh post offices so that each post office functions as both a Postal Department outlet and an access point for the payments bank, subject to technical and commercial feasibility,” he said. “The pan-India rollout of 650 branches is to commence from April 2018,” Sinha added. He also noted that IPPB will leverage Postal Department ATMs for its banking operations, which are already connected with the ATM networks of other banks. The Postal Department currently has 995 ATMs.

Exacting demands

As the Postal Department sees it, the mobility of the Indian population both within and outside the country has led to new and exacting demands on communication and financial services.

“The speed with which communications and other transactions need to be executed with a high degree of reliability is now measured in real time.

“The requirement for such services and products with improved features of accessibility, transparency, reliability and speed are clearly apparent in the marketplace,” the department has stated in its strategic plan.