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 (Kemu) 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, I had passed the interview and my appointment letter was in the mail box. Unfortunately, I lost my dream job since the letter had indicated that if they don’t get word from me in a week they would assume I am not interested,” said 33- year- old Omar.
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 us on board because our innovation offered convenience to its customers and in June 2016, we unveiled M-Post to the Kenyan market,” Mr Omar said.
At an annual fee of Sh300, 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, 34, is the technical brain of M-Post had by Monday subscribed 31,490 users.
Pata ajira initiative
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.
“We started Pata Ajira na M-Post in January this year which has since created employment for 2,900 youths,” said Mr Mohamed.
The company has big dreams. Taz plans to launch a similar service in Uganda next month in partnership with Uganda Post. The company is also in talks with postal authorities in Tanzania, Rwanda and Botswana to begin offering similar services.
“Our dream is to be in 10 countries this year, then consider offering an IPO,” said Mr Omar who is currently pursuing a PHD in Strategic Management at Kemu.
And even within Kenya there is room for growth. Last week 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).