A year ago a product was launched in the market which promised to fundamentally change how Kenyans use the post office. That product was M-Post, a service that turns mobile phones into formal postal addresses. Since it was launched, M-Post has grown rapidly and will next month expand to Uganda.
However, few people know that the service was born out of the professional disappointment of Mr. Abdul Aziz Omar, one of the co-founders of the company that owns the innovation, Taz Technologies.
In 2011, Mr. Omar had just cleared his master’s degree at the Kenya Methodist University and was very close to getting his dream job. He had made it to the 30 people shortlist for the coveted government position. However, a delayed letter cost him that job. His interviewers were supposed to communicate to him care of a relative via a postal service in Denyenye, Kwale County.
Having received no feedback three months down the line, he decided to make a trip to the local post office to check if there was any mail. As it were, he had passed the interview and his appointment letter was in the mail box. Unfortunately, he lost his dream job since the letter had indicated that if they don’t get word from him in a week they would assume he was not interested.
Together with a former classmate, Mr. Twahir Ahmed Mohamed, they begun brainstorming a product that would save people the hustle of walking to the post office to check their mail and the disappointment of finding out about important letters too late.
They eventually incorporated Taz Technologies in 2015. Mr. Omar had by then left his job as Head of Strategic Planning at the Unclaimed Assets Authority and Mr. Mohamed was ready to move on after completing a web master contract with the Kenya ICT Board.
Their patented product soon found an important customer – the Postal Corporation of Kenya, commonly known as Posta. Posta took the two budding entrepreneurs on board because their innovation offered convenience to its customers and in June 2016, they unveiled M-Post to the Kenyan market.
At an annual fee of Kshs. 300, Posta users receive free alerts on the availability of their letters which they can pick up at the post office or have them delivered to their door step. Mohammed, is the technical brain of M-Post had by end of June 2017 subcribed 31,490 users.
To bring more users on board, Taz Technologies has partnered with the Ajira Digital Platform, a government-led, multi-sectoral initiative aimed at introducing young people to online work. Taz initiated the Pata Ajira na M-Post where individuals are paid agent fees for enrolling people on M-Post in January 2017 which has since created employment for 2,900 youths.
The company has big dreams. Taz plans to launch a similar service in Uganda in August 2017 in partnership with Uganda Post. The company is also in talks with postal authorities in Tanzania, Rwanda and Botswana to begin offering similar services. Their dream to be in 10 countries by 2018, then consider offering an IPO.
In Kenya there is room for growth. Last month Posta, M-Post and Huduma Kenya signed a deal to give customers the option of receiving identification cards and other documents through M-Post without having to sign up for a traditional mail box.
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has given the two founders blessings to roll the service out in 144 countries. The UPU is the United Nations specialised agency for the postal sector. In the one year since its launch, M-Post has won two awards including the Oracle Innovation Award and the Public Service Award (bagged in conjunction with Posta).