The advent of courier services like many other lucrative businesses owes its origin to baptism in Karachi.

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Oct 09 - Oct 15, 2006

Recent years have witnessed a phenomenal growth of courier services. Market economies are based on competition, efficiency and productivity. As the customer needs became supreme the courier services initiated designing specialized products for different segments of customers. Postal administrations were no longer able to shield behind state monopolies. Their turf was open for competition and couriers managed to claim vital chunks of their businesses.

Realizing the change postal administrations rose to the occasion and focused on customer needs afresh. They launched an array of customer-oriented products and services and were able to reclaim some of their revenues lost to courier services. Various courier companies are in the run due to huge business potential in Lahore.

TCS is being considered as leading courier service, followed by Pakistan Post, SpeedEX and many others. PIA also launched SpeedEX Courier after huge business potential was considered within its reach. Punjab Excise Department under MTMIS project is delivering computerized number plates and registration certificates through courier. Banks are delivering credit cards through courier services. Huge potential exists in courier business in the summer seasons; mangoes are delivered through courier and other means of communications. Various transport companies such as Daewoo are fetching millions of rupees through their cargo service.

The advent of courier services like many other lucrative businesses owes its origin to baptism in Karachi. Long before it reached other upcountry markets and other cities, Karachi was quick to reap the harvest of this new initiative. Karachi, being the major port, commercial, industrial and business hub, had taken the lead in many areas before. For instance, the case of plastic money, rent-a-car, consumer banking and modern shopping malls - all took first roots in the city of Karachi. Lahore and other cities were to follow suit. But curiously this is a new phenomenon emerging only after the post-independence period.

As the old timers fondly recall, the city of Lahore was a trailblazer in so many ways in the pre-partition years. It was known to be a place which showed the way to others in the sub-continent. Whether in catering business, hotels, publishing, banking, chain stores, agriculture and even in filmmaking Lahore was in the forefront. Somehow after partition it could not retain its leadership when mass migration took place at that time, depleting the city of its many entrepreneurs and successful businessmen who moved away either to other side of the border or to other countries or away to the new capital Karachi.

The most shrewd and experienced of the lot, the Chinioti community made a beeline to Karachi, either from Lahore or from Calcutta, Dehli, Madras or other centers. Lahore has only started coming up in the industry and commerce only in recent years. More specifically when law and order worsened in Karachi and upper Sindh, it gradually registered a steady and phenomenal growth. If one was to look around Lahore and its surrounding the growth seems distinctly visible as the city is virtually bursting at its seams. It has expanded on all sides, towards Raiwind, Sheikhupura, Kassur, Muridke, on Multan Road and right up to the Indian border both on Wagha and Gandasinghwala near Kasur.

The initiatives of the Punjab government under Ch. Pervez Elahi to develop a ring of industrial estates around Lahore and to create a network of motorways to link up with Sialkot, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mirpur and other emerging centers is a testimony of this planned growth. The completion of country's maiden and most modern airport under private sector at Sialkot makes this as most significant development. The most remarkable fact is the remarkable upswing in the exports from the upcountry hubs. All this brings us back to the need of an efficient and urgent requirement of moving goods, packages and other articles both inside and outside the county. The role of courier services in this emerging scenario is of paramount importance. Lahore and other emerging centres are no more the backwater any more. They are bristling with activity and to fill in to the new requirements of this huge demand are now dozens of courier services, which have sprouted everywhere.

Vying with giants like TCS/DHL and OCS, dozens of big, medium and small outfits are competing hard to get their due share from this growing business. If one looks around, Leopard Courier, Gerry's, FedEx, TNT, UPS and a score of other outfits would be found almost in every neighborhood. Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Kasur, Wazirabad, Mirpur and Mandi Bahauddin, are all now creating a bonanza for the courier service business.