In an age where communication is as easy as a click on the computer, Botswana Post is defying odds to remain as relevant as ever. Pele Moleta – Botswana Post CEO tells KABELO ADAMSON that the growing revenue demonstrates their resilience.
In this age of advanced technology where emails are instantly delivered in the internet savvy generation, one can be excused to assume that the role of Botswana Post of delivering snail mail is quite diminishing.
But that is not the case. Botswana Post is accommodative to change. The organisation is embracing technology that has come with the change of times to remain relevance.
To achieve this, the organisation needed to change the way of doing things and move away from the traditional business of delivering snail mail and adopt ways that will ensure that it still remains relevant to its users in this age and time.
While conquering the challenge of relevance, the post on the other hand had to ensure that it creates as much revenue to at least to sustain itself and also give returns to the shareholders which in this case is the Government of Botswana. The government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Post.
Earlier this week, The Patriot on Sunday caught up with Botswana Post CEO Pele Moleta at Poso House to discuss the organisation’s status. Moleta joined the parastatal in November 2008.
Moleta, nicknamed ‘The Postman’ by those he works with, is a humble man who acknowledges team work in the organisation’s successes. He says he leads a team which is committed to the cause and as such he is a leader not a boss.
“The plan has been and is to transform and modernise the post office so that it provides relevant and meaningful services to the people,” Moleta said.
Transforming and modernising the post meant the institution had to shed some staff members who were deemed surplus to the journey the post was undertaking. Close to 400 people were laid off. In addition, Botswana Post modernised its infrastructure and developed technology to link all post offices on real time basis.
Those who were let go, Moleta said, were either nearing retirement threshold or simply did not possess minimum academic qualifications that would enable them to be trained in the new ways of doing business so that they can continue to be part of the post office.
“When I joined all post offices were operating independent of each other on a manual system, which was then centralised,” Moleta said, explaining that this meant that it was difficult to monitor how the post office has performed. The arrangement was disadvantageous as it created loopholes and it took time to detect problems that ultimately manifested into crisis.
The challenges that the Botswana Post faced when dealing with transformation, Moleta said, included infrastructure, staff and transformation. The post continues to face a bigger challenge from the shareholder, the government. This means that the institution has to adhere to the governance required by the government.
“Our challenge becomes even more when we are expected to run as commercial entity, meaning we have to make our own money and cover our own costs. That is side by side with a challenge of providing postal services to all the communities as close to where they are as possible which means you can’t then be commercial if you are going to offer those services, the far you go from the eastern corridor, the more expensive it becomes to do business,” Moleta said.
The institution has a long-term strategy which will guide it in pursuit of profitability. The long-term aspiration of having a business is sustainable growth, he said.
“I use the word ‘relevance’ and I emphasize it because post office continue to face the challenge of diminishing traditional postal products volumes, letters are declining, people want their services online,” he said.
To respond to this, Moleta said they have to find a way of countering the problem. The post office, he said had to introduce new services so that it can provide other services that are growing such as parcel mails as most people want to shop from their convenience while others want their goods to be delivered at their doorstep.
The post office business sector consists of Mail Services which include both parcel and letter delivery, Bulk Mail; this is mail sorting and delivery service offered to customers with large mailing lists. In addition there is Express Mail Service and Philately.
The institution has gone all out to explore avenues that would help it to diversify its portfolio and increase returns.
This has seen the post office going into partnerships with several organisations. It has joined forces with utility corporations where it has been appointed by Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) as a super vendor to sell pre-paid electricity. Further, the post office also serves as a touch point for water utilities offering customers to pay their water bills through post offices. It is also a major dispenser of road and car licensing services.
When asked about the initiatives he has brought since arriving at Botswana Post, Moleta responded by saying that in fact it should be what the team has done since then.
“I do very little, what we done is we have implemented an automation of all our post offices,” he said. This, he said, means that any transaction that takes place at post office is immediately reflected at any other post office countrywide and that makes it easier for customers to access the services.
Before then it was difficult for people to access services, for instance when an individual send money to someone, the receiver can claim that money at any post office as opposed to sending it to a particular location.
Botswana Post is also a facilitator for many institutions including mobile operators in terms of money transfer. “We have embraced both new technology and also to expand our jobs so that we do a little bit more so that we sustain the future of those that are in place,” he said.
As a way of embracing technology, Botswana Post has automated its mail processing capability where they sort all the letters to exchange with other international mail operators.
The post office continues to exploit opportunities on offer. Currently Botswana Post is piloting a new project of mail delivery to the households in Tshane and the project will be tested in Block 7 and 8 in Gaborone this year.
All the initiatives the post office adopted are paying dividends. Moleta said the performance is continuing to improve in terms of revenue creation. “We have improved tremendously in terms of our revenue growth. We need to continue to improve our productivity, meaning that our revenue per staff member needs to increase and we must also decrease our costs of doing business,” he said.
In 2013 financial year, Botswana Post recorded an increase of 7 percent in revenue growth to arrive at P214 million. During the same period, the post office suffered a loss amounting to P76.3 million which is partly blamed on staff rationalisation. This cost the institution P50 million.
Moleta said they are reviewing both the number of outlets and the model through which they service them so that they are able to sustain them.
“Side by side with that we are contentiously engaging the regulator around the issues of funding for the universal service obligation,” he said, explaining that the government has committed to provide basic needs which include postal services. He, however, said the unfortunate part of this is that the government does not fund the universal service. This means that when you operate a post office at a particular place, it does not matter how many mail items have to be taken there; they have to be carried at any costs.
However Moleta said they are seeing improvements and need to do more and find the right level of servicing, particularly the rural communities so that they are not left behind.
Over and above he says the post office the institution is always looking for new ways on new products and services to offer to communities where basic postal services are not sustainable. This has allowed communities to access services such as receiving payments such as of cattle sold to BMC.
The post office is not only faced with challenge of technology emergence or growth but also with competitors. There are several courier companies operating in the country. But this does not mean Botswana Post is not doing anything as Moleta said competition has always been part of life.
“I never want to be seen blaming the government, but I want us to always recognise the fact that in our instance we are owned by government even in terms of pricing, until recently when BOCRA was set up, our tariffs were approved by the government,” he said.
Botswana Post is the only regulated entity in the postal sector which means that anyone willing to set up a courier company can do so without necessarily going through processes.
Having acknowledged that competition will always be there, Moleta said they will not complain but carry on with their duty.
Concerning their relationship with the regulator, BOCRA, Moleta maintained that it is a working process. “A working process in that for BOCRA to do certain things they still need the government to put those necessary building blocks in place,” he said.
Though the odds are against Botswana Post in the dynamics of communication, it is clear that the institution under the leadership of Moleta will stand the test of time and remain relevant.
Who is Pele Moleta?
Moleta has been in the financial sector for most of his career. He started work at FNBB in 1994 after graduating from the University of Botswana where he studied Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Economics.
He would later leave the bank and join Old Mutual Asset Manager. That was in 2002. Moleta retraced his steps to FNBB in 2005 before ultimately leaving to assume his current position. His best moments, he said, involves seeing a good number of people he has grown in terms of leadership reaching high levels and positions. As a teamwork man, his greatest awards are those won by a team.
He describes himself as runner. He likes running as well as playing golf player. He is a diehard Liverpool supporter. To keep focus, Moleta reads spiritual and personal books that help him to grow as a person.