ICT ExpertSpeak: Mauritius post going increasingly digital with e-commerce focus
Giandev Moteea, CEO at Mauritius Post, spoke to AfricaMoney on how the renowned household name celebrated 10 years of operating as a private company in 2013, and how it has become increasingly modern over the years. (Image: Marie-Lorry Coret)
Giandev Moteea, CEO at Mauritius Post, spoke to AfricaMoney on how the renowned household name celebrated 10 years of operating as a private company in 2013, and how it has become increasingly modern over the years. He also noted that the post is going more and more digital, and is promoting the use of e-commerce not only by individuals to order goods from overseas, but also by companies to use it as an alternative export route.
Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:
What were the main achievements of Mauritius Post in 2013 and what are your expectations from Mauritius Post in 2014?
In fact, 2013 was an important year for us because it marked ten years since the post is operating as a private company ‘Mauritius Post Limited’ (MPL). So, 2003 saw the start of our operations as a private company and of course a milestone in 2013 was to make a retrospective of these ten years of private operation. But 2013 itself was the summation of ten years of fast, innovative and diversified strategies. In 2013, we pursued these strategies aggressively, especially in the sense that we forged powerful alliances and partnerships. These are the keys for the reinvention of the post so as to optimize our network and to position our new services and products through different business models and in a modern way. For example, we initiated the project of post travel in 2013 and we opened a modern and five star post office in Vacoas, which is prominently located next to the market. We also won the Brand Leadership Award in 2013 in the context of the Africa India Partnership Summit, illustrating the efforts made by MPL in reformulating its brand. Three awards from Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) along the way, highlighting our strategies to adapt our human resources from a Government department to a private entity with a pragmatic serial dialogue component. Of course, the modernisation, infrastructural investment and system-driven investments continued aggressively in 2013. We started to initiate changes in the care system because while we had computerized the post over the last ten years, it was more of a front end counter automation. So, we initiated process to automate the backend as well, thus initiating a fully integrated software and hardware system.
2014 saw the completion, in September, of the postcode roll-out that happened across all households in Mauritius. Apart from the adoption of an integrated postal IT system in 2014, there were also different infrastructural developments at a more micro-level to complete the look and feel of certain products and services and Post Offices. We also introduced the shopping mall concept on October 9, World Post Day, in the Trianon shopping park, to go for the outreach of our customers and the general public alike. This is a major milestone again for the Mauritius Post where we adopted flexi-time, under which the post office now opens at 9.30am and closes at 5.30pm.
2014 was also important because our CEO has been appointed as the vice-chairperson of a board called PRIME, which looks at the quality of service among postal operators around the world. There are around 122 member countries, which form part of PRIME, based in Brussels.
Now, we are increasingly going digital in terms of the development of e-commerce. We are in the process of developing and encouraging the use of e-commerce not only by Mauritians who want to order from overseas, but also by companies which want to export through the e-commerce route. Everything can be done virtually indeed these days, but the Post is here to move the items. Mauritius Post is positioning itself very aggressively in this e-commerce eco-system. We are also developing the digital signages at our post offices and are currently negotiating with our partners to place flat screens which can be used for advertising internally, since we have many footfalls at the post offices across the country. Besides, we are eyeing not only internal signages but also external displays in terms of billboards installation and others. All these digital approaches comes in line with the repositioning of the post as the “Digital Post” in the changing communications landscape, where the post has to coexist with the internet, the SMS and email and adapt to technology to move forward.
Finally, from a CSR perspective, apart from blood donation camps and other charitable activities that we undertake, we are also encouraging people to bring their used envelopes back to us so we can recycle them for sustainable development.
The vision of Mauritius Post is to be recognized as a world-class provider of postal and communication related services in the region. Where do you stand as of now on this paradigm?
With increased globalisation across the board and the world over, it is important that we have to benchmark our standards against world-class levels if we want to be competitive, not only nationally but internationally as well. Again, with the advent of e-commerce, we need to improve our service levels so as to make it seamless and provide end-to-end solutions not only for purchases by citizens of Mauritius but also exports by our companies. Because of customer expectations being at an all-time high, we now need electronic delivery confirmations, which necessarily means good tracking entries and usage of barcode and QR codes. So we are adapting ourselves to reach that level and part of that effort entails our forming part of PRIME, which also brings us to the required level of accountability in terms of tracking entries and web-based systems so as to manage quality better and measure performance at a global level. We receive statistics for measuring our level of quality for international mail and addressing the enquiries of a global audience.
In fact, the modernization of the Mauritius Post has been very far reaching in terms of infrastructural development, human resource development and training as well as the reengineering of the postal systems and developing e-commerce.
The global vision is also being implemented through the digital approach. On the regional front are very active in the South Africa Postal Operators Association (SAPOA), which is the postal arm of the SADC. I myself was Chairman of the SAPOA for three years, from 2007 to 2010, and this forum entails a lot of information sharing among members, which has helped us learn a lot over the years considering that we started our reforms ten years ago.
In recognition of the high quality of our services, we have received two international awards from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), one in 2008 and one in 2012, for our high quality of services of international mail management. These are concrete examples of our vision to modernise and be recognized as a good performer the world over, and also to pursue our objectives on the diversification front.
Lately, we have also adopted an electronic money order system within the postal sector, which is being deployed as we speak. For example, we have people from France who are sending money electronically to their families in Mauritius through the post. Secondly, we have been authorized to become an agent of MoneyGram, which is a money transfer system and used mostly by migrant workers. We will be a player in the MoneyGram sector in the coming weeks and also we are going to offer the choice to the customers between the MoneyGram service or e-money order of the Post.
Within the framework of your digitalisation services, Mauritius Post proposes to its customers 100% digital franking machines. Could you please outline the main benefits of this facility for Mauritius Post’s customers?
For many decades, people have been using mechanical franking machines where they can frank letters to enable faster manipulation of letter posting. However, these machines are becoming more and more obsolete now and the spare parts of the machine are no longer really available. So, over the last couple of years we have seen that in Europe and in other developed countries, they have developed digital franking. This is another example that we want to take on board the latest developments that have happened in the postal sector. We approached the local suppliers of digital franking, for which there are only two big firms in Mauritius, and one of them responded positively. There has been good synergy and collaboration between Harrel Mallac Technologies and Mauritius Post to bring to life the digital franking machines initiative with the participation of Neopost, a world leader on this front. It is very important for us to join that bandwagon immediately. It is very advantageous for the customers because it saves them the inconvenience of bringing the machine physically to the post office to load the amount of stamps they want to frank their letters with, and all the limitations in terms of the capacity to load. Now, they can do it electronically from one desktop to another, and then effect the payment through electronic banking. We can handle the requirements all day long at any time and the machine has multi-user capabilities so they can undertake franking for different departments on one machine. They have statistics at their command that they can monitor to know the exact usage of postage by different departments. Reports are produced for clients and they can even use the franking machine to imprint advertising elements that they want to undertake for their company, and put advertising slogans thereon. So, it lends itself easily to being programmed to do a lot of things, and is very practical, pragmatic, fast and reliable besides.
How does Mauritius Post seek to improve the quality of postal services in Mauritius, apart from the introduction of the zip code?
We have been diversifying, specially through partnerships and alliances, to produce lots of products and services and make them available to people at doorstep. The quality of service is of course, paramount, and I have summarized in the past all the strategies into two main axes to lead to the “Highway to success”: Quality of Service and Customer Centricity. If we get these two elements under control, it will ensure the success of all the other strategies at the same time. Training is very important in getting the right mindset and the right attitude to give a level of service to the customer according to their expectations. At the parcel post office, we have created a new experience for the customer and we have used all the measurement metrics that are available at UPU and PRIME to ensure that we can measure that level of quality of service for international mail distribution. We have also adopted technological systems, which are web-based, for measuring and monitoring and tracking and tracing our courier services, for example EMS. Now, we have a premium courier service called MPX. We also measure service levels for the parcel business through another software tailored for that. We have also put in place lots of value added letter services, electronic delivery confirmation and measurement metrics for services rendered domestically and abroad.
We are doing our best to challenge ourselves continuously to make our customers happy and to keep them in line with latest developments which meet their expectations.
The system of zip codes is now a reality in Mauritius and the island currently boasts its own Postcoding and Addressing System (PAS). How does the PAS play a bigger role in the local economy? In this context, is increasing e-commerce uptake in the island one of the reasons for introducing zip codes in Mauritius?
The postcode is an important element in the e-commerce world. We have provided a postcode to each and every household and all business entities. This initiative was completed in August 2014. The uptake is great, as evidenced from the enthusiastic utilisation by the people. Now, they have a zip code and when they surf on the Internet to order things, be it a parcel or a small packet, they can complete all the fields. These items are on the increase. We also entertain good relations with the air logistics service providers and we are reengineering our system to receive advance notifications when we receive parcels and small packets. We are now looking for more e-notification concepts, say through an e-mail or sms, subject to receiving such contact details from customers, of course. We offer convenience to our customers as they need not come to Port-Louis to recover a parcel. They can also ask for redirecting of their parcel to their closest post office. We are even thinking of doing the last mile delivery in future by offering home delivery to give more convenience to the customers. We are renovating and reinventing the Mauritius Post in the circuit and we will ensure that we give people the level of service that they are expecting.
The postcode itself is a modernization of the addressing system and we are convinced that large corporate companies like banks and other institutions will use the postcode to enhance their address database. We have sent a postcode information card containing a pedagogical element to ensure addresses are properly formatted.
What are the future projects slated to innovate and reinvent Mauritius Post?
Our success will remain rooted in our capacity to continuously reinvent ourselves and innovate. We have an innovation forum running at the Mauritius Post with the contribution of all the team members. We have already done quite a lot over the last ten years and we are going to pursue it further in diverse fields like reaching out to people more and more with our Shopping Mall Concept and other allied concepts. We want to use the strength of our vast network, 113 post offices around Mauritius, Rodrigues and Agalega. Like elsewhere in the world, 80% of our post offices are in small towns and in the rural areas, where the majority of the population resides. So we are going to develop more products and services to optimize the usage of this network, such as, for example, democratizing access to information. We have partnered with Bank of Mauritius and recently with Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) to democratize access to information on financial literacy and investment services. We are creating a series of sub-brands like for instance, PostTravel, PostAssurance to sell such services to a larger number of people. We are going to develop more our PostRapid courier services.Providing choice to our customers is another element of high importance so that people choose the level of services he or she wants. Also, we are developing value-added services in the area of philately for organisations which want to celebrate an event, so that they can build on collectible items such as Special Commemorative Cover. The diversification will go also towards non-postal products and services to compensate the fall in physical mail that the post is encountering. E-commerce is an important platform in a world where everything can be done virtually. We are also thinking about adopting kiosk development so that we have more automated machines, which will provide 24-hour service so that people can post parcels and small packets with enhanced facilities.
There will also be developments in hybrid mail. Presently we provide mail room services so that companies can outsource their mail room service to the post to do their postage. The second level will be that instead of sending their physical documents, they can send it on a soft version so that we can print, put in the envelope, frank and then post items. We also want to develop the financial pillar of the post more and more with a segmented approach towards financial services on the micro level and also in terms of financial inclusion and financial literacy.
Infrastructure will continue to be developed, we want to pursue more five star post offices. We are very focused on supporting the development of e-government services and internet services. Presently, we have internet access points in every post office, and we will be in a position to offer all e-government services. As on date, an individual can apply for a learner’s license online at the post, can download passport forms, and in a very near future people will be able to apply for birth certificates and many other online services so that they do not have to move around. For instance, it is especially important for us to cater for the students and also for the research they need to do. We have numerous new avenues in the post office as we move towards the shopping mall concept. We want to leverage our proximity with the population. We aim to transform our post offices into a more efficient hub not only for e-commerce but also for other of customer needs. So new paradigms will continue to be sought, to promote the right mindset and attitude. We want to keep the magic of the post intact, which involves encouraging youngsters to write letters.
Finally, please provide your views on the way forward for the Mauritian economy, as it becomes an ICT hub not only for Africa but also the world.
The Mauritian economy has got its macro indicators well established and we have witnessed the resilience of the Mauritian economy during crisis period. So, if you relate it to the ICT hub, it is encouraging to note that this sector is the third pillar of the economy and it is important that we pursue and develop that ICT hub for Africa and the region. Numerous international workshops, have given exposure to Mauritius and investors are being attracted in that sector. Software industry will be a major pillar for the ICT hub concept to materialize, and this will bring the ICT hub into another level. Due to our economic and political stability, we present a safe destination and a reliable disaster recovery center. I am sure that public and private universities will ensure that the training of human resource is accentuated and we will see more human resource mobility. Talents will have to be shared in and out in the ICT sector and people will need to accept the possibility of moving around to achieve world-class development. The reform brought about in the ICT and postal sector are good models to be replicated elsewhere. Mauritius has a great future as we have advanced ahead of many countries in the region. We can have global aspirations in a sense, since the world is getting increasingly globalised.
- By Marie-Lorry Coret