Friday, March 2, 2012

Now, post offices outside city retail solar lamps

Dear Comrades,

CHENNAI: Looking for an eco-friendly solar lamp to tide over the power cuts? You might be able to pick up one at your neighbourhood post office. The Chennai circle of India Post is selling solar lamps through 19 post offices across Tamil Nadu to give a fillip to its retail post initiative.

"The demand has been on the rise so we will make the lamps available in other post offices too," says M S Ramanujan, postmaster general. The department started selling solar lamps in Chengalpet from September 2011. In February, post offices in Vellore and Kanchipuram started selling the lamps to cover areas such as Madurantakam, Tiruporur, Uttiramerur, Sriperumbudur, Tiruvallur, Tiruttani, and Sathuvacheri.

"In the last month nearly 1,000 lamps were sold by the new centres," says an official. The demand is probably driven by the daily power cuts across the state.

The department sells three kinds of lamps with LED lights and integrated solar panels that can be charged in the sun. The prices range from Rs 399 to Rs 1,699, and come with high and low settings or a facility to charge mobile phones, depending on the model. "Once the lamps are fully charged they can be used for four to eight hours," says Ramanujan.

The department decided to sell solar lamps after successfully retailing gold coins and university application forms, and opening counters to accept utility bills. "We were forced to look at various options after the internet and other forms of communication eroded our traditional mail base," he says.

After a solar lamp manufacturer approached the department, it decided to start selling the lamps in rural areas. "Our biggest advantage is our network, especially in rural areas. The demand has gone up with power cuts and the beginning of the exam season," says Ramanujan.

To cater to the demand, the department has placed orders with a few more companies. However, supply is not sufficient to meet the rising demand. "Every household needs at least two lamps and that is tough to meet," he says.
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