The PIN Needs To Evolve

The Introduction of the PIN

Shriram Bhikaji Velankar, a name which may not mean a lot to most of you, was an additional secretary in the Union Ministry of Communications, under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, in 1972.

Why is that important you ask?
You will know, soon, is the answer.

What happened in 1972 in and for India? A lot of things, let’s try listing them out for fun!

  1. Manipur got it’s statehood
  2. India and Bangladesh signed a friendship treaty.
  3. India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement.
  4. The Wild Life Protection Act was passed.
  5. Meena Kumari and Geeta Dutt passed away.

I am probably forgetting a couple of things here, but how do any of those things mentioned above have anything to do with Velankar?

Well, nothing.

However, on the 15th of August in 1972, India was introduced to the Postal Index Number (PIN / PIN Code) system, yes, surprisingly enough, the colonial overlords didn’t leave us with a way to sort our posts and Amazon packages, neither incoming nor outgoing, which I admit was a pretty shitty thing for them to do, among the countless other shitty things they did.

Shriram Bhikaji Velankar, founded if not invented and introduced the Postal Index Number system on the day, India celebrates it’s independence from the British, pretty badass if you ask me, dude should be crowned a hero, but he wasn’t, or he was, that isn’t really relevant, anymore.

What The PIN Isn’t

Before you think it – No, the Postal Index Number isn’t a replica of what the British used in UK, which is the Postcode. Postcodes are alpha-numeric and were adopted from 1959 to 1974, according to multiple-sources.

Does that mean that we decided to have a better system to sort our Amazon packages than the British?

I don’t know, maybe I am just looking at Wikipedia as my source and lying about looking at multiple-sources and researching this post thoroughly. Although, that is still a lot more than what you’re doing, lazy-ass.

The British Postcode system works extremely similar to ZIP which is what the United States of America uses. They are both alpha-numeric and they don’t have a set amount of alphabets or numbers in them. They range from six to eight letters/numbers and might have spaces in between.

What The PIN Is

The difference between their systems and ours, is that our PIN code system is completely numeric, and it cannot be lesser than or higher than six digits and also there cannot be spaces in between of the numbers.

The PIN system is much neater and systematic in that sense, Velankar divided India into 9 PIN Code Zones, which was further divided into 8 regional zones and 1 zone for the Indian Army.

I know, this is painful for you to read, trying to grasp all the information in this post (geddit?) but let’s just go with it so we can get to the point:

PIN Zone 1: Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh

PIN Zone 2: Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand

PIN Zone 3: Rajasthan, Gujarat, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli

PIN Zone 4: Goa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh

PIN Zone 5: Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka

PIN Zone 6: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep

PIN Zone 7: Odisha, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Sikkim

PIN Zone 8: Bihar, Jharkhand

PIN Zone 9: Army Post Office & Field Post Office

Now, you have to understand that when Velankar did divide India into 9 zones, there were a lot less states than there are now, you can figure that out by the amount of states falling into random PIN Zones above.

The PIN System

To break it down, the PIN Code had a system:

Out of the 6 digits of a PIN Code:

1. The first is always the region
2. The second is the sub-region
3. The third is the sorting district of the region
4. The fourth is the route on which the delivery office is located in the sorting district
5. & 6. The fifth and the sixth is the delivery office within the sorting district

Yes, it’s all pretty confusing but that is life, it’s time to learn that.

Aren’t we here to understand the concept of PIN? You knew it was gonna be no cake-walk. In-fact, I would imagine a cake-walk to be pretty hard. Imagine walking in cake and get your kicks all spoilt. Ugh.

Go Macro Or Go Home

Anyway, the idea of the PIN module is, as you can see, to go from macro to micro, in the sense that it starts with the state you live in and ends with your local post office.

That concept in itself is pretty kick-ass and it is in-fact adopted by most countries in the world, when they submit or write their postal addresses.

Here is how it works everywhere in the world. As an example, say you live in: Apartment Number #1337 in a building-complex called Tub Apartments on the street named South Ave in Santacruz W.

You would, if you were anywhere in the world, write it as:

Address Line 1: Santacruz W, South Ave,
Address Line 2: Tub Apartments, Apartment #1337

City, State, ZIP/Postal Code

However, in India, when it comes to our postal addresses, we go from micro to macro, in the sense that we put our apartment numbers first, followed by the street name.
This is what the same address would look like if you wrote it in India.

Address Line 1: Apartment #1337, Tub Apartments,
Address Line 2: South Ave, Santacruz W,

City, State, PIN

I am sorry to tell you this, but that is supremely dumb as a thing to do.

It is in-fact not ideal, because the delivery and logistics folks do not care about your apartment number first, they care about your state, your city, your area, the road you live on, the landmark, the apartment complex and finally the floor and the apartment number.

Logistics work from macro to micro and not the other way around! Follow the advice of the PIN! Our PIN system tells us to go from macro to micro, right? SO WHY DO WE NOT WANT TO DO THAT?! Ugh.

Evolution of the PIN

One could argue that even though the PIN is simple at the core, in the sense of going from macro to micro, one could argue that like everything done in 1972, it is time for it to evolve.

It is a fact that the human brain remembers alphabets quicker as compared to numbers in a set sequence and therefore, I feel that it’s about time that the PIN system needs to abandon the numeric only-six digit limit. We need to be more fluid with our systems! FLUIDITY IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR!

But what can replace the over simplistic PIN? I got some ideas there, buddy.

Since the country is already split into 9 regions, variability within the PIN system currently is shown by numbers, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could denote alphabets to them instead of numbers? Let’s for a second consider that you wouldn’t have to remember your PIN and it would come to you automagically.

Here is what I propose:

400050 = Bandra (W) can be =

IN/91 = Alphabets/numerics denoting India for International shipments only
MH - Abbreviation of the state / Same as number plates
BOM - Abbreviation of the the city/ the airport closest to the area
BAN - First 3 alphabets of the area
W = Alphabet/s denoting the sub-area/ This part can be ignored for areas which aren’t divided into multiple zones

Therefore, the PIN would become
IN/MH/BOM/BAN/W or 91/MH/BOM/BAN/W. Seems longer but is it harder to remember than a number? Probably not.

Imagine you’re in Ratnagiri, in an area called Lebronjamesspacejamwhen, completely unknown to you what the PIN is and the 4G is dead, all you need to write is IN/MH/RAT/LEB followed by the macro-micro system.

But what if there are similarly named areas in a city and the first two letters of them are the identical? Well, thank you for asking!

I will unlock the pro version for a fee!

What you need to know for now, this could POSSIBLY save countless number of man hours, because there is a very remote chance of you messing up your PIN, as long as you are aware in which area you stay!

Evolution of the PIN: But Why?

  1. India has become way too complicated for just numbers, If Bombay is Mumbai and Lower Parel is Upper Worli, will the PIN in Lodha’s Trump Towers be of Worli or Lower Parel? If Wadala is New Cuffe Parade, what happened to the old Cuffe Parade? Is the PIN of both of them same? No? Why not?

  2. Loss of productivity for the postal department and private companies is still prevalent, a surprising number of people enter the wrong digit/digits as the PIN. One digit could mess up the entire thing, no?

  3. People suffer. Letters get lost, post goes undelivered, Amazon packages don’t show up, the dystopian future is here and it’s telling us that we want our packages delivered by drones, will consumers suffer because they messed up one digit in their address by not getting their shit delivered to their door? That sounds worse than the pandemic.

  4. I don’t know the PIN code of Usmanpura in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. I know it starts with a 3800-something but hell, why do I need to remember numbers? Or even put in the effort to Google it, when the PIN could just be IN GJ AMD USM?!

Evolution of the PIN: But Why It Won’t Happen

I also understand that this isn’t simple nor is it a priority and that it is probably more difficult to get the government to listen to ideas which help in the nuances of living a life.

The PIN was designed & implemented in 1972 and a lot has changed since then. We have Starbucks here now, we need a better design and a better implementation of it and we need it soon.

Wait, are you asking why can’t PIN just be eliminated, yet? I asked the same question, apparently it can’t, because post offices still need to be denoted by a number, or in my proposal, alphabets, so that mail can come in and get sorted accordingly, it’s easier and faster, apparently. Ugh.

But what if we do change them from numbers to alphabets, won’t that waste manpower, everybody in the system would have to be trained and learn the new system? In the short-term, as with any change, there are going to be issues, but as India gets moves to a term I love, ‘deep-urbanization’, these problems would be sorted out.

If we do bring in more states and cities into our dream of an urban India, we are going to need to create more PINs because currently villages have ONE number, but if what if the village becomes a city and has 15 sub-divided areas?

Maybe I am wrong, maybe we should stick to our 4000’s, who knows? I know that I am definitely not wrong. [And we shouldn’t stick to it (Just saying)]

Velankar, beeteedubs, you da man.


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