A FRIEND in need is a friend indeed. This personal impression, however, matches exclusively with one business sector. It was because the sector stands beside the people, business community and commercial world round the clock and beyond borders to help them.
Courier service is such a friend that transports pain, support, needs and what have you for each of its clients and convey those in the form of document or goods to their destination. But this helpful sector does not have such strong foothold in the country due to lack of policy and guidelines.
Courier service is most the neglected sector as it runs without any guideline and support of the government, alleged a group of owners of leading courier service companies. They that said there was no standard in the services including introduce fixing the rates of different services resulting in loss of confidence of the clients.
"We do not even belong to any ministry to press for our demands," said one of them, adding that as result of which rivalry ha developed between postal departments and courier services.
As only a trade license is enough to start the business, the owners said that mushroom growth of so-called courier houses have occurred damaging businesses.
Mohammad Fakhrul Islam, Managing Director of Central Courier Service, said that that they faced real hardship to survive in the business as a big gap in the rates of different services emerged among the courier companies due to lack of control and uneven competition.
He said the so-called small companies collect mails from different offices by hand at half the actual rates only showing letterhead pads. On the other hand, they use services of the established courier companies to send those to their destinations. "They have no office, infrastructure, distribution system or telephone facilities to run the business," he added.
"They take away our businesses by sending all items into one box and asking the lowest rate for their services…. So in case this kind of parcels face dislocation, the reputed companies have to suffer," Shaikh Nowsher Ali, Executive Director of Sundarban Courier Service said explaining the situation.
Since independence, three to four companies like Continental, Sundarban and Dreamland courier services have led the sector until the 70s. But its number increased as the process of getting trade licence became easier. At present the Courier Service Association of Bangladesh (CSAB) has only 19 members. But unofficially, it is claimed that the number of private sector courier services is less than 200.
Most of the established courier service companies have a network based in the capital and has more than 10 types of services for 24 hours. This sector has an employment generation capacity of more than 15,000 in each company depending on its network. It has also investment opportunities in the sectors like logistic divisions. It can also help flourish businesses locally and in overseas. Moreover, its efficient growth can also help reduce traffic pressure on the streets lowering the number of accidents as well.
But this sector needs supports including smooth communication, a good infrastructure and security system to smoothen their services.
Fakhrul Islam said this service has witnessed a tremendous progress throughout the world and succeeded with speed in their work, accountability and trust of the clients. "But this is not the case in the country" he said describing the situation of his company.
He said that since its inception 12 years ago, Central Courier service has gradually expanded its network from divisional and district levels to the upazilas and some of the thanas setting up their own branches and agents.
"The 'so-called' courier services damage the image of the business by often losing goods and parcels," he lamented.
There are also allegations against many courier services for helping anti-social activities including smuggling. Many such companies go out of business after a short time. Admitting these facts, the owners of reputed companies believe that an active and vocal association of the courier companies can change the scenario.
As most of these courier companies remained out of the jurisdiction of CSAB, they could not control the activities and take effective and concerted measures to improve the situation, they alleged.
Emamul Kabir Shantu, President of CSAB, said if emergence of so-called companies could be checked through specific rules and regulation, this service-oriented sector would play effectively and contribute to the expansion of trade and commerce as well as solve the challenging problems of high unemployment.
This sector needs cooperation from the government including law-enforcing agents to maintain standard and avoid harassment, he pointed out.
Worldwide, courier services have witnessed rapid changes with the phenomenal development in telecommunication. It offers myriad of products chasing the ever-changing client demands. These include class-based mails, Ordinary Post, Booklet Parcels, Express Mail, Overnight Mail Morning, New Special Express Mail, Delivery Date-specified Mail, Special Delivery of Legal Documents, Hybrid Mail, etc. But more and more innovative services are also being introduced at the international level
Speed, accuracy and safe delivery are the key factors to continue in the business, said Fakhrul Islam pointing out that due to lack of policy, a severe mismanagement crisis exists in this courier service sector. For example, he added that, in some cases they have to pay double Value Added Taxes.
Shaikh Nowsher Ali said this sector needs to be brought under control with the help of an association that should play its role properly.