PostNet is a network of owner-managed courier outlets that provides services that include printing, packaging, courier, design and other related services. The network boasts over 400 outlets across the nation. It takes advantage of the sparse network of the Post Office of South Africa and fills the gaps. It brings postal and courier services closer to people.  The business handles a lot of business and there is not very much standing between the right person and starting a similar business model in Zimbabwe.

Business model

The first thing to note about PostNet is that it is a franchise-based business model. Individual owners are licenced by PostNet to operate using both the PostNet brand and their agreements with courier and packaging providers in their business. PostNet also supports owners to offer printing and graphic design services, notary services and private mailboxes. The Post office in South Africa has many similarities to the Post Office in Zimbabwe, particularly its size and therefore inefficiency in manoeuvring and pivoting to provide the general public with the services they need in a timely fashion. As such the model could be replicated in Zimbabwe. Despite the various courier services that are available in Zimbabwe, the lack of centralisation of access to them leaves logistics as one of the biggest problems in Zimbabwe’s quest to fully take advantage of other technologies and make eCommerce a viable option for businesses.

The backbone

The backbone of PostNet is in courier services. All other services are built on the back of the courier services network. PostNet provides its own PostNet2PostNet courier service in addition to offering other courier services such as DHL to improve its coverage and offer international courier services. Setting up this PostNet2PostNet service requires the setting up of area offices. For example, setting a central office in Each province (Metropolitan Provinces of Harare and Bulawayo included) would be the first step. From there the next step would be to offer licencing opportunities to individual owners in the various location that would operate as satellite offices.

Franchisees

Franchises would need to be offered on a geographical basis for the best effect. While areas with higher populations may in theory warrant multiple franchisees, working on a geographical basis would allow the best possible opportunities for business for franchises and therefore warrant franchise and licence fees. Exclusivity in an area would enable this. Franchises need not be big offices. The majority of PostNet outlets in South Africa are very small shops with little shop space. You could make an argument for licencing counters and desks in shops which already provide other related business.

Target market

Many existing businesses would benefit greatly from the addition of a franchise that is similar to what PostNet offers in South Africa. Primarily, internet cafes which have had a decent chunk of their business cut by the advances in mobile phone technology and mobile internet would be open to this. Those that are still active count graphic design and printing as sources of business. A little thinking outside the box may be useful here. Courier services are widely beneficial to the general public and you need to offer franchises only to those who offer related services. In some areas, they may have no courier coverage at all and that is an opportunity.

The key thing to understand about the PostNet business model is that helping others succeed is at the foundation of everything they do. They offer the services that help local entrepreneurs create, grow, and manage their businesses — including a wide range of printing services, packing and shipping, graphic design, private mailboxes, virtual mail, notary services, and much more. And as a franchise organization, each centre in the network contributes to the success of the whole.

Supporting the franchisees

As with most if not all franchise businesses, your role as a franchisor is to support your franchisees. The bulk of this role comes in the form of marketing to create both customer awareness and demand. The courier business is split between business to business (B2B) and Business to Customer (B2C). The two markets require different strategies. You will not capture eCommerce retailers who require distribution for their products with the same strategies that you will use to attract individuals who need to send articles to other individuals sporadically. Remember the franchisees are your customers and the transacting public are their customers. You will need to market the brand to the franchisee’s customers hence creating your own customers.

As mentioned before PostNet does provide related services that include printing, graphic design and packaging. Packaging of course goes hand in hand with courier and logistics provision so you definitely want this to be a big part of your offering. Supporting your franchisees by negotiating deals with packaging manufacturers using the power of bulk buying from multiple outlets and passing on the cost savings to customers would be a great way to make your provider the destination of choice. Thanks to technology many things can operate remotely and graphic design services is a very good example of this. You could set up a design house or office that operates out of Bulawayo or Gweru but services the entire nation through your network.