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Obsessively Stamping it Out!
Philately as a Hobby has not been able to Grab The Imagination of Indians. B&E meets up with Kavery Banerjee, Chairperson, WPE Secretariat to get The Softer side of this Field
Issue Date - 17/02/2011
The basic idea of stamps historically was their use as a token of appreciation that the sender has paid the postage in advance. Over a period of time though, stamps were collected as a hobby by many philatelists, and they gave creative expression a new height. However, India hasn’t travelled far in this regard. With a view to revive the love for stamps in the country, Indipex 2011, which will take place in the capital in February 2011, will aim to bring the international philatelic community together. And in congruence with the strategy of many renowned brands today, it also aims to capture the attention of the most lucrative target group – the youth. With over three decades of experience with India Post in her bag, Kavery Banerjee, Chairperson, World Philatelic Exhibition (WPE) Secretariat is at the forefront of the initiative to ensure that the goal of the government is achieved in time. Apart from the idea and the strategy to tap young Indians with the exhibition, she discusses the future of India Post with B&E

B&E: Philately as a hobby has not been able to gather a lot of steam in the country so far. What makes Indipex 2011 an important event in that context?
Kavery Banerjee (KB): The idea of this exhibition itself is to promote the love for stamps in India, wherein people from over 70 countries will be participating. A major part of the event is the competition, wherein philatelists from various countries will be showcasing their collections. These are people who have a certain stature as far as their collections are concerned, so you get to see some of the best collections in the world. While there are close to 500 exhibitors, there is a class of people, which is beyond competition and will be displaying their collection at the exhibition. The exhibition will also have several stamp dealers, postal administrations and stamp printers, who will be participating. The idea is that everybody gets a platform to interact and find out the latest trends, the new printing technologies and the new stamps that countries are bringing. As far as the competitive part of the exhibition is concerned, the collections will be judged by an eminent panel of 39 renowned philatelists, out of which seven are Indian. The exhibition carries accreditation from various international philatelic organisations with names like Fédération Internationale de Philatélie and Federation of Inter-Asian Philately. Philatelic Congress of India is also on board as far as the exhibition is concerned and it is after 27 years that an exhibition on philately is being organised in India on such a huge scale.

B&E: What kind of attractions have you planned to revive the love for stamps via this exhibition?
KB: At this exhibition, we will be coming out with two very special products. The first will be on Khadi as it portrays Mahatama Gandhi. In the past, a few countries have launched silk stamps, but we wanted to be different and there wasn’t a better option available. People have lost their love for letters (and consequently stamps) as a fallout of modern technology like e-mail and mobile phones. It (Khadi) will be a limited edition product and as the material is very rough and rugged, it is very different and unique in its own way. Moreover, we are also coming out with customised stamps, which offer an option of getting your mugshot on the stamp. We are hoping that with UID coming into picture we will be able to take this product to the masses, but we will be doing this at least for the seven day period of the exhibition. And as it is for children, the stamps have been priced very reasonably at Rs.150 for a 12-stamp sheet.

B&E: Even scented stamps were very popular during the 1990s. Are you planning to reissue them during the exhibition?
KB: We had come up with three sets of scented stamps in the 1990s. As we wanted it to be quintessentially Indian, we launched the first set on sandalwood followed by one on rose and one on jasmine. But a lot of research goes into making these stamps. Normally, we don’t reissue stamps, but we will be coming up with similar stamps in the case of zodiac signs just to appeal to the children, as we will offer customised stamps where children can have their photograph with their sun-sign printed.

B&E: The public hasn’t seen too much promotion for the event so far. What are the reasons for the same?
KB: We were trying to do innovative promotion with economical costs, as we don’t have huge pockets to promote this exhibition. We have a event manager on board who conducts road shows for us. The idea was to position it at prominent locations so that it can create awareness among the public. We are also doing various school contact programs, wherein we are educating the children and inviting their schools to come, but it is just one part of the target segment as their parents will be the ones who will encourage them to take up philately. The other segment is elderly citizens and as philately is a very rewarding and interesting hobby that does not require much hard work, we believe we will be able to attract that segment as well. We have limited our activities to Delhi and NCR region, as these will be the areas from where the footfalls will come.

B&E: With the promotions you have done, what kind of footfalls are you expecting in this seven-day long event?
KB: We are planning to bring in about 3,000 kids everyday. However, as it is being done after such a long time, we are not very sure on what kind of footfalls we will get. Apart form the kids, there will be many renowned philatelists coming to the event. But 3,000 is the minimum that we are expecting to start with and we hope that it exceeds our expectations.

B&E: The hard reality is that with technologies like e-mails and mobile phones, people have stopped writing letters. How do you view the trends for India Post?
KB: It is a fact that with e-mails and mobile phones coming into the picture, a certain set of people have stopped writing letters, but even then, the overall volume has been on a rise for the last two years at least. It is mainly because of the fact that a lot of official and business mails are sent through India Post. We hardly have any competition with courier companies, as they take only the creamy layer. Our network of 1,55,000 post offices is unmatched, as even China Post has only 50,000 post offices.

Pawan Chabra           

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