How new innovation is set to revolutionise mail delivery system
By Jacob Otieno
Two years ago, Abdul-Aziz Omar Mohamed, founder and CEO of Taz Technologies, attended an interview for a government job. As any young Kenyan job-seeker, he was thoroughly prepared for the interview — neatly dressed and armed with answers.
The suave and spunky tech prodigy charmed the interview panel and got the job. But there was a problem!
“My appointment letter was delivered to my postal address. I checked it two months down the line. I was late, and the job was gone,” he recalls. It was a dream shattering loss.
However, Mohamed did not despair and instead embarked on a search for a solution to what was apparently a huge Kenyan problem.
In the traditional mail delivery system, Mohamed says, you never know when your mail or parcel is delivered to your post office box and as a result many Kenyans miss important mail deliveries. Some see the mail when it’s too late and in certain cases the letters just never reach their destination. As a result, jobs and business opportunities are lost, and crucial appointments are missed.
It gets worse in the village. A single postal address that, in most cases, belongs to a nearby school or your grandfather’s church is shared by a whole village.
“Chances are that besides not receiving your mail on time, it could end up in the wrong hands,” says Mohamed.
After his nasty experience, Mohamed wanted to do something about it, which is why in March 2015 he approached Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) with a proposal sketched on a piece of paper.
Mohamed’s one-page proposal did not charm the PCK bosses. It was too half-baked and unprofessionally written to warrant a sit-down with the corporation’s top brass.
“The idea sounded great, but I had to send the young man away to go and write a serious proposal if he wanted our audience,” says former Postmaster-General Enock Kinara, who admits having misgivings on the seriousness of the young innovator when he first met him.
Mohamed and his team dashed back to the drawing board to redo the proposal. Soon they were back, and this time it was excellently written and presented. In the proposal was a virtual post office box that was going to help Posta to finally restore its long lost glory.
The product was originally called Virtual Post (Vpost). But that was changed after the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Joe Mucheru, who Posta and the developers had approached for his input and support, suggested it be called Mobile Post (Mpost).
Both the founder and investors believe Mpost could be Kenya’s next biggest invention after Safaricom’s M-Pesa.
M-Post, a virtual post office box also called ‘Posta Mkononi’, is a new innovative solution that will enable Kenyans to enjoy postal services through their mobile phones.
“Your phone will now act as a mobile post office where you will receive real-time notifications on delivery of letters or parcels to your post office box,” says Kinara. “The solution is affordable, convenient and very efficient.”
The virtual post box will cost Ksh300 (US$2.96) annually, a significant drop from the Ksh2,300 (US$22.7) previously charged for postal services.
Using M-Post, you will be able to track the movement of your mail and parcels through your mobile phone. You will also have the option of getting the mail or parcel delivered to your preferred location using Posta Dispatch Services or Expedited Mail Service (EMS), an international and domestic courier services for both documents and parcels offered under the brand name EMS Kenya.
Since this is a mobile-based service, sharing of postal office boxes is no longer necessary, enhancing the privacy and security.
To register for the M-Post services, simply text the word ‘Mpost’ to 40777.
The revolutionary product is part of Posta’s ongoing efforts to stave off competition in a market that is largely driven by innovation and which has, over the years, shrunk its market share.
The corporation’s entry into the world of technology is aimed at bringing in additional revenues away from traditional postal services.
“We expect to connect with additional users of postal services through M-Post,” says Kinara.
As at the time of its debut in mid-June, some 21,000 Kenyans had already signed up for the service.
The product has been hailed by the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Mucheru, who says it’s a move in the right direction for a corporation that has been struggling to remain relevant.
“This innovation will no doubt have an impact on the way Kenyans communicate and transact business through the post office. It will also propel the postal industry to greater heights,” says Mucheru.