The Postmaster General and Chief Executive of NIPOST, Adebisi Adegbuyi, spoke withÂ Emma OkonjiÂ on the new vision for NIPOST designed to make it commercially viable and customer centric through the deployment of modern technologies. Excerpts:
Posting the post into prosperity is the new vision of NIPOST. What are the measures put in place to achieve the vision?Â
We have put several measures in place to achieve our new vision of posting the post into prosperity, and one of them is to increase staff capacity and enhance their job efficiency. The new vision is driven by technology transformation in NIPOST, which is anchored on four pillars and 18 programmes. So we have fresh plans to train and retrain our staff. Through adequate training, we hope to achieve the goal of increasing staff capacities. We will be training them on new technologies that will help them to excel in their job in order to satisfy the customers.
The new NIPOST business is centred Â around the customer and therefore it is customer centric. If the customers are happy with our services, they will always come back to patronise us. Â The first point of contact of the customer is with our staff, which means that our staff must be well trained to properly manage our customers.
Are there plans in the new vision to diversify NIPOST business?
As an organisation that puts its customers first, we must diversify our products and services to customers. NIPOST used to be a mono-product organisation and did not diversify its business in the past, and as such, it did not fulfill its obligations and mandate. In the past, NIPOST was under-performing and under-achieving, because it had several products, but limited them to just one, which was selling of postage stamps, and as such, it was not living up to its supposed potentials. We had since figured out these lapses and we are trying to correct them through the diversification of our products and services, coupled with the new game-changing services that we introduced recently. With the ongoing implementation plan on diversification of our products and services, we are confident that we will achieve better results going forward.
How will NIPOST leverage on its infrastructure across the country to deliver on its new vision of diversification?
NIPOST is the only organisation that has presence in all the 36 states and in all the 774 local government areas and community development areas. In all these areas where we have presence, we also have our infrastructure on ground. We will leverage on the nationwide infrastructure of NIPOST to deliver services on trust because our new services are based on trust. A woman, for instance, collected her pension money and put back the money into NIPOST because she has trust in the government organisation and it is that trust that we want to build upon. We also want our customers to have better experience and better technology innovation that will empower them. Â There was a general belief that the advent of internet in Nigeria has further grounded the operations of NIPOST. But I can categorically tell you that such belief was erroneous because the same internet has opened up enabling opportunities for NIPOST business to expand and grow. So as NIPOST, we do not have any reason to complain that the internet is adversely affecting our operations because it has even helped us to boost our eCommerce business that has grown in volumes in recent times. So with internet, we must integrate, innovate and match the analogue with digital in order to serve our customers better.
One of the four pillars and 18 programmes of the new NIPOST is to use technology to drive innovation. So what specific areas of NIPOST services are you looking at to drive innovation?
We are looking at driving innovation with technology in all areas of services offered by NIPOST to its customers, because in today’s postal administration, technology is key. For example, postal administration cannot thrive without a robust state-of-the-art digital addressing system. Technology is the enabler and driver and we are going to ensure that we deploy technology that will address our national addressing system and other areas of our service deliveries to the public. The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo, recently inaugurated the National Council on Addressing System and we at NIPOST will infuse the latest technology into the addressing system in order to achieve better results. The essence is to ensure that mail packages and parcels are delivered safely with ease, using technology. So combined with GPRS enabled mobile phone, the NIPOST staff is able to carry out efficient mail delivery system and this will go a long way in solving up to 50 per cent of the challenges of NIPOST. Without a robust addressing system, eCommerce cannot thrive in Nigeria. We also have what is called the Address Verification, Authentication and Validation, but without a robust addressing system it will be difficult to verify what has been identified. We are also deploying technology to bring back to life, the old postal order.
So, NIPOST has developed a technology that will match with the faces of people living in a particular address and this will help in safe delivery of mails and parcels, and at the same time meet the expectations around proper addressing system in Nigeria.
In the past people had great confidence in NIPOST and they were using NIPOST to send and receive money, through postal order. But we can no longer play in that space, using the old analogue system, because the internet as a disruptive technology, has changed all of that and we at NIPOST must adopt digital technology to remain afloat in business and also meet customers’s satisfaction.
We have to diversify into electronic money order and what this means is that we should be able to provide services that will enable people transfer money to other people even without having a bank account. The sender will have to visit any of the post offices, carry out the transaction, and get a transaction code that he or she will send to the recipient who will in turn, use the short code to collect the money from any post office nearest to the recipient.
What has happened to the old compulsory use of stamp duty on documents and how can NIPOST revive it, usingÂ modern technologies?
Since 1939, there has been the stamp duty law, which imposes the statutory obligation on Nigerians to affix an adhesive stamp on any document in order to authenticate transactions. But there are millions of online documentation and transactions taking place in the eCommerce space that have surpassed the old use of affixing adhesive stamps on documents. So by thinking out of the box and using technology as an enabler, we have come up with electronic stamp that will be used to denote online transactions.
You said there has been significant improvement in the services of NIPOST, five months after its initial retreat in Ogere, Oyo State. Could that be said of the volume of eCommerce business within EMS/Parcel Nigeria that is being managed by NIPOST?
The way that we boldly spoke Â about the significant improvement in the services of NIPOST in the last few months,Â is the same way that we can also speak of the growth in the volume of eCommerce business of NIPOST that is driven by EMS/Parcel Nigeria. It will be surprising to hear that NIPOST had in the last five months, reduced its recurrent expenditure by 42 per cent and we are going to further reduce our expenditure by the time we fully carry out our automation processes. We are working with some Indian experts to fully automate our system to further cutdown on leakages and wastage in order to grow volume and increase revenue. The plan is to automate the entire NIPOST operations. I am pleased to inform the public that the latest track and trace equipment has been successfully deployed in NIPOST to enable customers sit at the comfort of their homes and offices and then trace and track their items on delivery. All of these are geared towards giving our customers the real value for their money.
As PMG of NIPOST, how do you get the feelings of your customers in relation to customer satisfaction?
As the PMG and Chief Executive of NIPOST, I read mails of customers and their comments, be it complaint or commendation. They pass through my system and I take out time from my busy schedule to read mails from customers and by so doing, I get the feelings of our customers. If there are issues that should be addressed after reading their mails, I ensure that those issues are promptly addressed. The bottom line is that our customers are kings and should be treated as such, in order to give them better customer experience so that they will always return to patronise us.
What is your take on Â international remittance businesses that NIPOST is no longer participating in?
International remittances generate between $20 billion and $23 billion every year and the cost of transaction is as high as 12 per cent and this is so because the post offices are not involved and that formed the basis of the interaction we had in New York, when I attended the Global Forum on Industrial Development, some time ago. We had the African Roundtable where issues of how the post could be involved in the international remittances business, were discussed, in order to reduce the cost of transaction to at least a single digit, from the current 12 per cent. MoneyGram and WesterUnion Transfer can only work with the banks but the irony of it is that the banks are not everywhere to service the customers. For instance, the banks are not in all rural areas, but the post offices and postal agencies are in every state, every local government, and in every community, no matter how rural that community is, and this makes it a lot easier for the international remittance business to get to the grassroots customers at even cheaper transaction rate, if the post is involved.
So how can NIPOST begin to play again in this line of business?
We have plans to play well and play big in the international remittance business, going forward. We are planning to establish postal outreach centres in various grocery stores and enter into partnership with online businesses like Yudala, Konga, Jumia among others, to have presence in all of their business locations and assist customers in delivery of their goods purchased from any of the locations. This will of course help NIPOST to diversify from its mono-product offering that it used to have in the past, to series of product offerings, to further enhance customer experience.
In the past, there used to be a lot of pilfering around customers parcels. What is NIPOST doing to block pilfering and leakages?
In any organisation, there are unpatriotic staff who try to drag the integrity of the organisation to the mud, but there are also faithful workers who are highly patriotic and dedicated to their duties. So patriotism and unfaithfulness are not peculiar to NIPOST, but however we are putting technology in place to address all of that. What we will continue to do as an organisation of government, is to continue to put mechanisms in place for identifying unpatriotic staff and punish them. Once someone who has a predisposition to criminality is made a scapegoat, it will deter orders from behaving the same way and it will serve as deterrent to others. I know it is not going to be easy, but we must continue to protect our customers and empower our postal security department.
Your have talked a lot about enhancing customers’ satisfaction but the NIPOST staff members that will trigger it, need to be given priority attention in terms of better welfare and remuneration. Are you thinking of increasing staff salaries?
Since I became the PMG/Chief Executive of NIPOST, I have had course to meet with the chairman of salaries and wages commission in view to tinkering the salary structure of staff members, but the most important for me is the determination of the members of staff to transform the operations of NIPOST, using modern technology. We want to turn NIPOST to have commercial drive that will attract local and international investments and we can only do that if we are able to transform NIPOST.
The transformation model we are looking at is the model of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). We are looking at having a Postal Corporation of Nigeria and under it, we will create full fledged limited liability companies that will be subsidiaries of NIPOST, where people can decide to invest in any of the subsidiaries.
We will use some of the property of NIPOST that have titles to secure funds for NIPOST.
If the members of NIPOST staff understand the dynamics to transform NIPOST, and generate more money for NIPOST, then salaries will be reviewed upwards and all staff will smile. Â So the members of staff of NIPOST need to help NIPOST in order for NIPOST to help them.Â If they can use the latest technologies we are providing to block leakages and generate more money for NIPOST, then part of the money will be channeled to staff welfare.
So sir, in all of these, what is your vision for NIPOST?
My vision is to have a NIPOST that is commercially administered to unlock opportunities that have been lying fallow over a long period of time in such a way that workers from other organisations will be leavingÂ their paid employment to seek employment with NIPOST.