Dr. Mike Umo is the General Manager, Bulk-Post Venture, the bulk mail handling component of the Nigerian Postal Service (Nipost). Before joining in 1987 as a postal controller11, he had a stint with the Bank of India.
Umo, in his 26 years of stewardship at Nipost has worked as district postal manager, Murtala Mohammed International Airpport, Ikeja and FESTAC Lagos, respectively; First product manager, Lagos Mainland; Area Manager in Nipost Territorial Headquarters in Edo, Enugu, Delta and Lagos State.
He was appointed general manager Bulk-Post Venture in October, 2010 to carry out reforms that would entrench seamless processes in the then traumatized system. He spoke to peter ugwu on his transformation efforts
Place of Bulk-Post in The Postal Sector
The bulk-post is key to restoring courier operations in Nigeria; in that we are more or less number one point of call in the distribution chain.
For instance, we determine the tariffs that guide operators in the industry. It implies that when Courier Operators go out to negotiate business with customers, like the Capital Market Registrars, it is our tariff they use; anything in short of that they will be running at a risk.
Risk in the sense that when they bring the jobs to us, definitely we will not deviate and it is our tariff we are going to use in giving them their share-percentage.
The arrangement is that when Courier Operators get jobs from the Registrars, they will bring the job to us and the standard is that any job that passes through us we give them 40 per cent of the total benefit and we take 60 per cent. So, when they get a job and under value it, the blame will not be shifted to us.
This arrangement is not to say that we do not get jobs directly from the Registrars. What apparently determines the tariff is the weight; we weigh every job that comes in here.
We advise them not to play smart and then shoot themselves in the leg.
For instance, if two companies are pursuing a particular job and one of them tries to outsmart the other by cutting cost, they may end up not having the resources (fund) to bear the delivery costs. So, it is a sure way to ensure uniform tariff and curtail illegality.
Meanwhile, there are still few of them that cut corners; that is by taking jobs somewhere else, but if they pass through the Venture, such customers are guaranteed of maximum service.
Except for the few jobs they deliver on door-to-door process; that are not bulky, every other job is expected to pass through us.
Why Should They Pass Through the Bulk-Post VENTURE?
The principal reason is that most of them do not have all it takes to process the jobs and deliver them to the last mile.
We have the facilities and the spread throughout the country. That is the truth, but they will not want to hear that. For instance, you will find out that most courier operators do not have the facilities to move the mails from Lagos to other parts of the country like South-East or the Northern part of the Country.
So, when they collect the jobs we process and pay them their percentage. And I inherited the recent tariff regime, so anybody who would complain of that should know that Nigeria as at today implements the least tariff; the essence is that the industry is still evolving and we want the players to survive with more customers accepting to do business with us in the industry.
Uniform tariff for the industry is the best because it helps to checkmate activities of the Registrars and curb excesses of courier operators and enable a level playing field for everybody. It is also a sure way to check sharp practices.
The activity of handling bulk transaction is that of Bulk Post Venture. In the past, Post Offices had the prerogative to manage all that, because of their spread. But the management of Nipost saw it as becoming a rat race sort of, that culminated into the establishment of the Bulk Post Venture in the year 2000.
So the emergence of Bulk Post has brought sanity and standardization in the courier companies’ interface with the customers. At the time we came in, we saw there was need to centralize. The process of centralization gave birth to the sharing ratio of 30:70.
After that, the Association of Nigerian Courier Operators (ANCO) started pressurizing that we need to review the ratio; in fact, they were even asking for 50:50, we said no, but when the pressure become unbearable, I craved the indulgence of the Post Master General and following series of meetings, we agreed on 40:60. They just direct the job to us; we do the bulk of activities involved.
Assessment of the Mailing Industry In Nigeria
Looking at the industry comparatively, there are various problems that we are facing. We need to tackle them before comparing operations here with what happens elsewhere in the world. In terms of facilities we are not there yet.
What is worrisome is that the mail volume is shrinking by the day. And the causes are not far-fetched.
For instance, a bank that has over one million shareholders it is expected that when the annual general meeting is coming up such bank would print the annual report to the corresponding number of shareholders.
That is not happening presently. Some banks in connivance with some Registrars come out with just half of the reports. Because of that, a lot of courier companies are chasing few jobs in the field. And more courier companies are coming up.
How does that affect the industry and the society at large? When a company is struggling to remain in business, will it employ more people? Apart from that, the industry is in absolute need of a principal regulator, because by standard, Courier operators are not supposed to be treating the kind of mails that Bulk-post handles.
They are supposed to focus on door to door delivery service, pick up service, logistics, etc. However, in the present industry anything goes. I would not say that the Courier Regulatory Department (CRD) is not apt in their operations, at the same time a Regulator with Statutory backing will do more.
It will have more logistics at its disposal and spread that reaches out to even the nooks and crannies of the country. Items below 500grams do not fall under the purview of other operators. But we have allowed them to continue so that businesses will thrive.
Innovations Implemented By Bulk-Post
Well, on the part of reform we started by centralizing the Venture. When I came in, we had eight (8) centres, but for proper monitoring and accountability we had to streamline the process. We merged the different locations and brought them down to headquarters annex at Lafiaji.
The procedure was widely lauded; most people were happy about it, but we do not expect that all would embrace it. In any sector where there is a bit of disorganization, definitely some people will benefit from it.
Our target was to attain an internationally acclaimed position in organization of the bulk mailing business.
Through the processes we were able to win-back our integrity; at a time people were going out, struggling to get job and have them delivered without competency.
On the part of the courier, most of them have seen that standardization was not for us alone, but they stand to benefit over time.
Automation of Bulk Post Operating Procedures
There had been attempts to do that, but logistics challenges could not allow us to perfect the system.
Recently, we received note from the head of ICT of Nipost that some people shall be drafted from the department to work with us in the bulk post for the purpose of perfecting our automation process.
ICT is a big plus to what we are doing, because if this place is automated it will help achieve our core values anchored on transparency and accountability.
If the transactions are automated, accountability will be 100% achievable. Automation will enable us to track movement of items in and out the post. Therefore, cases of human error or sharp practices shall be eliminated.
Apart from the challenge of scarce resources which is common to companies in different sectors of the economy, we at Bulk Post have a peculiar challenge which is a fall out of the recent development in banks and companies producing compact discs (CDs) to replace printed copies of annual report.
That is our major challenge. A lot of them are shunning production of hardcopies. A copy of printed annual report values at N180:00; when you have 100,000 of them, you know what it translates to, monetarily. It is really affecting our revenue generation.
So, when that report is produced in CDs we get nothing more than N60 and remember most of the jobs come to us through the courier companies, invariably, we have to share whatever profit made after delivery at 40:60 ratio. As it stands now, it will be difficult for us to meet our revenue target.
Conservatively, between last year and now that companies digitalize annual reports, we have lost nothing less than N200 million.
The only way to change the trend is for the shareholders or stakeholders in those banks and companies to request that their reports be published in hardcopies. It is true that every company would like to cut costs, but in a situation whereby the reports are published in a CD, will somebody be able to sit down for two to three hours to study that? That is a key burning question. The differences between the two media-soft and hard copies are obvious. If you pick up a book to read when you are tired you mark where you stopped, go wherever you want to and come back to continue, but CD is not like that.
Secondly, you can tender hard copy report as evidence in the law court due to its creditability. Thirdly, how many of the shareholders are computer literate?
Last year only about 12 companies used CDs; and these are companies that generate volumes of reports.
This year more of them will join the trend because everybody is thinking on cutting costs, but does that add value to the shareholders is the question left unanswered.
It is left for the shareholders to complain to the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission as they are the people that are affected more.
Bulk-Post in Postal Regulator Era
The existence of the ‘Commission’ will rather help Bulk-Post fulfil its functions. We are going to complement each other
The Commission is not going to impact negatively on us. While we are awaiting the establishment of the Commission, Nipost will still continue to play double roles which ought not to be.
Then, with the advent of such a Commission, every other venture will restrict its operations to its primary responsibility. And I am sure we will do it better; there will be no divided attention any more.
FG Offers to Support TStv to Relaunch with Pay per View Model
National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has pledged to give necessary support to TStv Africa as the indigenous digital satellite TV service begins full operation with pay per view model on October 1, 2020.
Professor Armstrong Idachaba, acting director-general of NBC, made the promise on Monday in Abuja when the management team of TStv paid him an official visit.
The visit was to inform him of the company‘s readiness to commence full operation across the country on October 1.
TStv Africa is a wholly-owned Nigerian innovative multi-channel outfit which had promised to operate a pay per view model for the benefit of Nigerians.
Idachaba said: “We promise on our side that we will continue to support you.
“At this time, I think that the major issue confronting the PayTv sector is the area of giving Nigerians option of deregulating purchasing capacity in terms of pay as you go concept.
“We believe this will give you the visibility if you remain committed to the idea.
“We welcome that option and wish that it serves as a stimulant and as a progressive index for other pay-TV operators to adopt.
“Some of them have come up with a lot of excuses why pay per view is difficult and why it is not doable.
“We want you to be the galvaniser to prove the naysayers wrong that this is doable in the interest of Nigerians.
“Once you begin and you make a success of it through increased subscription base, we are sure that others will be drawn into it as it happened in the telecommunication sector.”
Idachaba said the NBC is committed to promoting local participation in the nation’s broadcasting industry, especially in the pay-TV sector, to create jobs and provide diversity for Nigerians.
He acknowledged the challenges TStv had faced over the years and encouraged the company to remain focused.
“We are aware that it has been very challenging for you.
“All over the world dominant players will always want to remain in a dominant position.
” Those who want to survive will also have to take the courage to do so,” he said.
The Acting Director-General, however, admonished the firm to refrain from any activity that would give Nigeria a bad name.
“If you are acquiring rights, you must make sure that your rights are legitimately acquired.
“You must make sure you follow the rules of engagement strictly, study the broadcasting code strictly to have a robust future ahead of you,” he said.
Earlier, Dr Echefu Bright, managing director and CEO of TStv, said they were at the NBC to seek the commission’s support to have a peaceful roll out on October 1.
He said the outfit also visited the NBC to officially present samples of its decoders to the commission and thank the management for its support.
Bright gave an assurance that the novel pay per view concept was sacrosanct.
“The model is what we have experimented and implemented and it works and we have done everything we need to do for it Nigerians to benefit.
“Beyond that, we have enough boxes on ground that will cover the entire country,” he said.
Bright also gave an assurance that with the Oct.1 roll out, every part of the country would be covered.
“We currently have a dealership in virtually every state in Nigeria and as I speak to you now our goods are already with them for October 1 rollout. The coverage from day one will be across Nigeria,”
On sports products, he said the firm has Laliga as well as the FA Cup and Euro Cup 2021 rights.
Why Businesses Should Take a Long-term Approach to People, Product, and Customers
By Andrew Bourne, Region Manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation,
Business success is perceived differently today. Buzzwords like maximization, venture-backed, growth hacking, and well-conceived exit strategies (like IPOs or acquisitions) define entrepreneurial success in the current age. In a mad rush to show high quarter-on-quarter growth rates, corporate leaders have forgotten that the true value of a business is how long it stays relevant in the market and instead focus solely on transient growth spurts even if they cost profits.
Any business, no matter how big its initial success, needs to take a long-term approach if it’s to avoid being one of history’s almost-rans. This applies to every aspect of the business, including, people, products, and customers.
Invest in People
When you are a new company working on developing deep tech, discovering talent and retaining them is a challenge. Try to create and slowly nurture a pool of capable workers who will gain domain expertise over time. At Zoho, in order to sustain our long-term R&D efforts, we initially kept the teams small and worked with people who were committed to learn and understand the domain.
Patience is the key when you cultivate talent in-house. As people refine their skills and gain deeper domain knowledge, they gradually bring their learning to the business and build a solid offering that will stand the test of time. Ultimately, it’s the culture of experimental learning that you build which keeps you going and also motivates people to stick around for the long haul.
Build a product that can pivot and adapt
Equally important is to take a long-term approach to your product. You might be selling something simple today, but you need to be able to build on that. Take Amazon, for example. It started out selling books and gradually built out to become a trillion-dollar company. It hasn’t just focused on e-commerce either. Amazon Web Services (AWS), its cloud-computing division, keeps more than 40% of the internet up and running.
The lesson here is that long-term thinking isn’t just about having a product plan and sticking to it. It’s also about adapting to any future opportunities that present themselves. Whatever sector you operate in today, it will see disruptions sooner or later. If you can adapt to those changes, or find new opportunities in other sectors, you will be better placed for continued success than your competitors.
Keep up with customer expectations
Finally, you need to take a long-term approach to your customers. If you are constantly gaining new customers but not retaining them, you’re unlikely to see real success. Returning customers routinely spend more money on brands they’re loyal to. People are also more likely to recommend others to businesses they have had a good experience with. Simply put, it just makes business sense.
But taking a long-term focus with your customers isn’t just about the direct touch-points you have with them. Everything, including the software solutions you use, should have the customer at heart. For example, a unified tool which allows you to instantly see every interaction a customer’s had with your business (be it via voice, email, or chat), will put you in a much better position to serve them than trying to work with several different products.
Taking this long-term approach might feel overwhelming initially, but it’s much more likely to pay off than simply trying to survive from quarter to quarter. After all true success is built over time.
CBN Pulls Rate Cut Trigger, King Dollar Returns
By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM,
In a move that caught investors off-guard this week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slashed interest rates by 100 basis points bringing the MPR to 11.5%. Given how inflation has been above target since 2015, rates were expected to remain unchanged for the rest of 2020 and possibly early 2021.
The question on the mind of many is whether the rate cut will achieve the desired effect by stimulating consumption and economic growth? Ongoing border closures and disruptions created by COVID-19 have pushed inflation to levels not seen since March 2018 above 13.20% while a drop in the production and price of Oil continues to rub salt into the wound. While looser monetary policy could support growth, it may come at the cost of rising inflation and weaker Naira.
Over the past few months, central banks across the globe have deployed unprecedented measures to defend their respective economies against the coronavirus menace. However, fiscal policy has been identified as the sharper tool with governments across the world providing a critical lifeline to keep the wheels of their respective economies rolling.
Outside of Nigeria, King Dollar made a return by appreciating against every single G10 currency. In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a juicy piece of the world’s most liquid currency. As coronavirus cases rise in Europe and other parts of the world, the flight to safety is likely to boost appetite for the Dollar. This is bad news for many emerging markets currencies, especially those with high Dollar-denominated debt.
On the commodity side, Oil prices remain heavily influenced by demand-side factors and the state of the global economy. Prices are likely to remain stuck around the $40 regions in the near term, especially If another round of possible lockdowns hit Oil demand. Looking at the technicals, WTI Crude is under pressure on the daily charts. If prices are unable to break away from the sticky $40 regions, the next key point of interest remains around $38. A weekly close above $41.50 could pave a path towards $43.
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