THE advent of the social media has revolutionised communication with Facebook, Twitter, SMS and WhatsApp among others making the traditional process of sending and receiving letters almost extinct.
Chatting on Facebook or WhatsApp is much faster than the time it takes the postman to get on his red bike, never mind how much longer it will take to deliver the mail.
If the rate at which technology is developing is anything to go by, the business of sending and receiving mail could soon be in the dustbin of history.
At a press briefing this week, Zimpost MD Douglas Zimbango revealed that in 2000 Zimpost was handling around 100 million mail pieces a year.
Fast forward to the present day. Zimbango says they are now handling just 14 million mail pieces a year. This is an alarming 86% reduction. He added that mail used to contribute 80% of the company’s revenue; It now only contributes just 20%, representing a 60% drop.
It is probably fitting that Zimpost have dubbed its diversification programme “Beyond the Envelope” as they indeed need to go beyond the envelope to keep their heads above water.
This is especially so, as Zimbango revealed, considering that they last received funding from government in 2004.
The massive reduction in mail volumes is also reflected in the staff complement of Zimpost. Zimbango said when he joined the company in 2000 they had a staff complement of almost 3000.
Current staff figures are less than half of that at 1 169.
He said although the ideal staff complement is 800 they cannot cut it further as they are not able to close down some offices even when they are not viable.
Zimbango said they have however not twiddled their thumbs as mail volumes have steadily eroded since 1995.
“We have not sat on our laurels over time,” Zimbango said. “We have come up with other services that we believe will substitute the lost revenue from declining mail volumes.”
Among other things, the parastatal has embarked on a project to automate its systems to allow it to carry out more e-based services for both the government and the private sector such as e commerce, money transfers and government services. It will also allow for Zimpost to act as an agent for other companies using its postal network.
Zimbango revealed that to date 76 post offices have been automated with 154 of the 220 offices being automated by the end of the year.
They have also introduced several monetary transfer services which include Zipcash, a facility through which customers can send and receive money locally and internationally through the worldwide postal network.
The parastatal will also provide mobile money services with various partners which include Netone (Onewallet) Econet (Ecocash) and Telecel (Telecash) .
Other products include the National Addressing parastatal’s and Post Code Pilot project which is being run at the Mount Pleasant Post Office representing the low-density mail delivery area, the Mpopoma Post Office for high-density mail delivery area and the Chaminuka Rural District Council in the Shamva district representing the rural mail delivery area.
The project will allow GPRS aided location of households for mail delivery and disaster management. The alpha numeric codes will be fed into a database which will pinpoint the police, fire brigade and ambulance services. Zimbango said the system has a margin of error of 5 metres.
The pilot project will run for 18 months before rolling it out nationwide.
Zimbango also revealed that they are phasing out the traditional red bicycle used by postmen and replacing them with motor cycles.
They have acquired 120 motor cycles and remain with 300 red bicycles. A few of the bicycles will remain as the new mode of transport cannot negotiate some of the country’s terrain.
Zimbango said they expect its annual turnover, which currently stands at US$20 million, to increase at the end of next year as its parastatal’s projects start to bear fruit.
Time will tell whether Zimpost can push the envelope or remained enveloped in the unprofitable past.