Menu Close

Postal Pivot: George Alexis

Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation’s George Alexis has his sights set on an industry-disrupting pivot for the nation’s postal industry.

In our increasingly digitized world, snail mail is fast becoming a relic of the past. Postal operators around the world have been watching their mail volume and revenue steadily decline over the past 15 years, leaving them scrambling to stay afloat.

“Local mail, which accounts for 90 percent of the mail we deliver, has declined by two-to-three percent year-on-year since 2009,” says George Alexis, Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation (TTPOST)’s Acting Managing Director.

“We’ve lost about 40 or 50 percent of our mail volume since then. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation and we saw a 30 percent dip on the previous year for regular mail, so we’ve had to find ways to adapt and close that revenue gap.”

Luckily, Alexis is no stranger to business agility. When he partnered with the Trinidad and Tobago Government and TTPOST to set up a local courier company in 1999, the service that had seemed so promising fell flat when it launched.

“We’d received feedback from hundreds of companies all over Trinidad saying, ‘This is a fantastic concept; we won’t have to hire our own messengers anymore’,” Alexis explains.

“We had about 150 companies sign up to do business with us, so we hired couriers and put in all the infrastructure. Then, on day one, we were sitting in the office waiting for customers to light up the phones, but we only got one call the entire day. I was sitting there thinking, ‘What did I do? Why did I leave New York and throw my whole life into this?’”

Because the government had engaged New Zealand Post to take over the management of its postal services, the Managing Director and five general managers from New Zealand performed damage control. “We sat down together and brainstormed,” Alexis says.

“They said, ‘Let’s all go out and visit our customers every day.’ I learnt from them how to lead from upfront. You have to put your nose to the grindstone and get out there.

“We built the courier business from the ground up and it has been my passion ever since.”

Creating a tailored service

After taking a seven-year hiatus from TTPOST to save a local newspaper by boosting its circulation, Alexis returned to the postal operator as General Manager Operations in 2015.

“When I came back, I was faced with a lot of unfinished business and new challenges,” he says.

“On a global scale, the postal industry had lost its dominant position to private sector operators such as DHL, FedEx and UPS. But I saw a lot of opportunity for TTPOST to reclaim lost ground and play a more aggressive role in developing the country’s economy.”

“My cell number is on every document that TTPOST sends out. If a customer wants to call me, day or night, they can.”

Over the next few years, Alexis poured his energy into expanding TTPOST’s courier service and increasing its market share by focusing on creating an industry-leading customer experience.

“We’ve invested in technology and we provide high-value products and services that are tailored to our customers’ needs,” he explains. “Each of our 1,500 corporate customers has an assigned account executive, so they have a personal relationship and they know who to call when there’s an issue.

“My cell number is on every document that TTPOST sends out. If a customer wants to call me, day or night, they can. We have that level of personal connection with all of our customers and it’s not because we’re a small island. We have 1.4 million people, so we do have a level of scale, but we still try to maintain that personal connectivity.

“It’s our competitive advantage and we’ve built a high level of trust with government agencies and the public.”

Grasping unexpected opportunities

When the country went into lockdown in 2020, Alexis saw an unexpected opportunity to turn TTPOST’s courier business into an essential service. “When customers couldn’t visit local businesses and state agencies, we stepped in and provided that connection,” he says.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in our courier service revenue and we now have over 80 percent of the local courier market. It’s an amazing model because TTPOST has roughly 1,000 staff and the courier business is only about 10 percent of our headcount.

“That’s roughly 100 people, but in terms of our bottom line, they’re contributing almost 50 percent.”

“We’ve seen a significant increase in our courier service revenue and we now have over 80 percent of the local courier market.”

Seizing such a large piece of the courier market pie required levelling up TTPOST’s technology. “We engaged an Indian company called Reason Solutions to develop a track-and-trace system for us in 2021,” Alexis explains.

“It allows our customers to live-track their packages from point of injection to our network to point of delivery, and get real-time information on local goods moving around. It’s low-cost and high-value, and our customers love it. It has improved the efficiency of TTPOST tremendously and we’re very pleased to have a strategic partnership with Reason Solutions.”

Despite these impressive results, the courier service is only one small piece of TTPOST’s long-term growth plan. Alexis and his team are now squarely focused on implementing a large-scale international ecommerce project that will be rocket fuel for the Trinidad and Tobago economy.

“Ecommerce in the Caribbean has traditionally involved people purchasing goods from the United States, which are first shipped to Miami before being shipped down to Trinidad,” Alexis explains.

“That involves foreign exchange leaving the country. We’ve been working on a strategic plan with the Caribbean community’s umbrella body, CARICOM, and the Caribbean Postal Union for several years, and it was finally approved in April.

“The plan is essentially ecommerce in reverse. We have the biggest physical presence in the country in terms of buildings and equipment, so they’ll now become collection points for small and medium-size enterprises who manufacture local goods they want to export.

“We’ll also provide them with marketing opportunities, connections to the United States and international markets, and an online payment platform.”

Benefiting the nation

TTPOST is working closely with the United States Postal Service (USPS) and other international postal operators to get the initiative off the ground.

“CARICOM studies have shown that this project could have as much as a four percent positive impact on GDP for smaller countries,” says Alexis. “For Trinidad and Tobago, even if it’s a one percent impact on GDP, we’re looking at US$90 million positive growth for our small business community.

“It’s no longer just mail delivery, which we will still provide, but it’s also building an economic hub.”

“And it’s win–win, because when our small businesses earn, they’ll shop online in the US and USPS will have to ship those goods into Trinidad. We’re looking at creating a symbiotic relationship where post changes its paradigm.

“It’s no longer just mail delivery, which we will still provide, but it’s also building an economic hub.”

While Alexis admits the project will require some blood, sweat and tears, he believes in his team to get the job done. “Everybody’s stretched thin, but we see the vision,” he says. “As long as I’m leading this organization, that’s the direction I want to take it in.

“TTPOST touches every house every day. We know the community better than anyone else and we want to become the connection point between our people and the world.”

Leave a Reply