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Technology knocks out Zimpost


In the words of Harold Wilson: He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.

Two decades ago, faxing was the first attack on snail mail as businesses and individuals sought to find new ways of getting their messages across faster.

However, there has been a huge shift in the last 10 years or so with the coming on board of mobile telephones and the emergence of the Internet.

Its fair to assume mail and parcel delivery firm Zimpost never saw it coming and decided to continue in its old ways of doing business. Its typical of most of the countrys parastatals.

With the traditional mail being replaced by short message service in the late 90s it was a matter of time before Zimpost got into trouble. Unfortunately for Zimpost, the last 10 years have been revolutionary in the manner in which businesses have evolved.

So it came as no surprise that the reduction in postal output and the advent of quicker online methods of communication forced Zimpost to move to real estate and rent office space in order to get revenue to sustain its operations.

Zimpost managing director Douglas Zimbango last week told a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology chaired by Mhondoro-Ngezi MP, Bright Matonga, his organisation was in trouble.

A few offices in our buildings are operated by ourselves and the rest are occupied by other businesses because the postal sector has suffered most because of electronic substitution, said Zimbango.

The decline started in 2003 when we only handled 100 million mail pieces and from 2004 we were on 51 million. In 2005 we had 32 million and in 2010 we went down to 15 million, he said.

Zimbango said between 2003 and 2010 Zimpost experienced a 34% decline in mail volumes and to ameliorate the difficulties, his management decided to diversify and move into real estate.

So where did Zimpost lose it?
Today mobile devices provide texting and social media and have shifted away from letters. Fewer people write letters, send bills or even pay bills via postal mail.

Just for interests sake, how many of you mailed holiday cards bought from a shop during the past festive season? It was all done electronically, was it not?

Most business that used to give Zimpost patronage have since moved to e-commerce while the institution has remained stuck in the realm of the physical.

Everything happens via cyberspace in this generation.
Zimbango said remaining major clients on mail were now a handful of credit stores, the Harare City Council and Zesa.

It was, however, surprising Zimbango found solace in the company having opened Internet cafs. If Zimpost is not careful, it will also soon be out of that business given the growth in mobile connectivity.

Missing a market shift is what causes most business failures. They fall into trouble because either they fail to recognise a shift in the market , or for some reason react late to changes in market needs.

Sadly reducing delivery and mail-processing facilities would damage the ability of Zimpost to carry out its mandate for universal service, especially to the elderly, the disabled and the poor.

Zimbango also told the committee that nowadays a few councils were sending their water bills via post office mail and this had severely affected their operations. Its time Zimpost smelt the coffee or they will be totally out of business.

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