As one of the leading specialized agencies of the United Nations, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) is an important intergovernmental organization with 192 member countries. Turkey's designated postal operator, the Turkish Postal Services (PTT), took over the chairmanship role of the UPU Council of Administration in 2016 and will maintain this role until 2020. The UPU's primary ambition is to ensure universal access to public postal services which is becoming much more diversified and digitalized. Established in 1874, it is among the oldest international organizations and has the reputation of being the main platform worldwide for postal cooperation between member countries and sector players. Most importantly, it helps and provides guidelines to ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date products and services in support of the global community.
The UPU has recently achieved an enviably high quality of research and an advisory role, as well as a sound interaction between members of postal sector across the globe. What really sets the UPU apart is the sole responsibility to reach the ones who are financially and socially excluded and therefore a willingness to look behind the challenges, to create debate, to brainstorm and find new ways of servicing the global community. Apart from its advisory and liaison role, it is the organization that sets the rules for international mail exchanges and makes analyses, researches, technical studies and recommendations to stimulate growth in postal and financial services. It operates as a corporation and works like an academic institution, which is necessary for maintaining progress and improvement within the sector. Just to give some background information on this in the light of recent innovations, there is still the same ambition that dates back to the foundation of the union. The role of the UPU is evolving accordingly by managing the universal postal affairs, improving the universal postal service standards and quality of service, strengthening the universal network, developing new up-to-date digital services, improving the infrastructure of backward regions and continents, reaching those who are beyond the pale of world economy and facilitating the daily life of the world citizens.
Moreover, the Universal Postal Union advises, supports and complements the member countries policies in the fields of financial and social inclusion in harmony with the United Nations Development Program. In addition, both in periods of rising and declining postal market, the UPU has been always effective in encouraging member countries to assume long-term strategies covering all components of the sector.
As an example to its technical studies, the UPU has been preparing an important report on postal matters worldwide which is known as the Integrated Index for Postal Development. The background of this report tells something different: That the traditional mail volumes have shown a sharp decrease over the last years is a well-known fact. As a result, the national postal administrations are crossing now their own borders and some of them are on the way of becoming global companies by taking the advantage of e-commerce and international logistics. In this context, the UPU report underlines the real secret of sustainable business success and draws the attention of national administrations to the fact that inclusiveness and integration are key for competitiveness and revenue growth. At this point, it is important to always bear in mind that the nature of postal development has recently been aligned with the United Nations 2030 Agenda, embodied by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The postal development
In practice, it is difficult to comprehensively identify the true meaning of postal development by focusing only on the operational side of it. Therefore, the other components that form postal development have to be taken into consideration in today's sophisticated world while defining development plans and strategies. Today, nothing is local any more. We need an extensive look and an international mind to understand the postal development around the world. It is always acclaimed by the UPU that examining postal development in light of sustainable development is directly linked to the prosperity of the postal sector and the well-being of societies across the globe. In light of this, in some particular ways posts can be considered as the catalysts of the global economy that covers all socioeconomic components and dynamics. When talking on social and financial inclusion it should be remembered that posts play an extremely crucial socioeconomic role with a universal network of 677,000 post offices, 5.3 million dedicated staff and a unique physical infrastructure bringing 192 countries together.
It is obvious that the UPU has done a great job by providing such an Index since measuring the multidimensional sizes of development is a huge task and responsibility. This Index is the outcome of this responsibility and produced by analyzing the performance of national postal administrations across the globe. The UPU Index calculates the performance of countries based on reliability, reach, relevance and resilience criteria by analyzing postal big data, using the statistics and surveys.
The 2018 study compares a total of 173 countries around the world and La Poste Suisse, the world's number one followed by Netherlands, Japan, Germany and France. Those countries had a solid and permanent operational performance over the last years and have all managed to build trustworthy, well connected, relevant, resilient and sustainable postal services. In light of this, industrialized countries have higher scores. It was the mid-1980s when postal administrations in a number of European countries underwent, to some extent, modernization and transformation processes in order to improve their profitability and to ensure their sustainability. And now they are enjoying the fruits of this process and are on the way of embracing the future by developing new service channels and ways of servicing.
In the classification of 173 countries, the Turkish Postal Services (PTT) was ranked 44th in the world. At this stage, and leaving aside the fact that the classification does not indicate the real position of the Turkish Post in the global platform, this ranking must be considered widely with care. The PTT began its transformation journey in the late 1990s. In 2004, like in many industrialized European countries, PTTBank was founded. Another major step in corporate history was the establishment of the ePttAVM in 2012, which is Turkey's first three-dimensional virtual shopping platform. This e-commerce platform is the channel that really sets the Turkish Post apart among the other national postal administrations across the globe. There is one key date in the PTT's corporate history; September 20, which is the start day of the 15-day UPU Istanbul Congress.
Following this historic success, the Turkish Post hosted the International E-Commerce Conference in 2017 and the 3rd UPU CEO Forum Istanbul in 2018. As it can be seen from the recent achievements, the Turkish Post has the perfection to be ranked among the best postal powers in the world. All these indicate that sometimes it is all about using the existing potential which the Turkish Post has done so far. In light of the recent improvements in the fields of politics and economy, it is maintained that Turkey will become even more attractive for global companies and private clients. Therefore, the PTT has to further focus on its home market and international operations and services.
What to do?
In today's very fast changing postal environment, the current situation of operations needs to be overemphasized without solely focusing on one part that may seriously cripple all supply chain and efforts. The reliability principle becomes much more important since the operational efficiency of postal services is limited with numbers. This is a key principle to sustain global competitiveness.
Taking into account the fact that the Turkish Postal Services is no more a national or regional power, by remembering the global partnership with Hong Kong-based PAL Company, priority shall be given to all parts of international e-commerce logistics by launching similar initiatives in different parts of the world where e-commerce can add more value to the commercial reputation of the company. Having an e-commerce platform and bilateral agreements with different national postal administrations around the world is just priceless but it should be definitely functionalized and very well marketed, too. This is the only possible way to make the physical postal services more productive.
In addition to this, there should be clear and simple planning in every category of postal activity. Adequate attention has to be given to international transactions, there has to be true planning instead of temporary solutions during the rush periods of the year for the smooth functioning of the supply chain. Last but not least, resilience was the last key criteria underlined within the index. Based on this commercial principle, today, diversification and sustainability of the revenues are the focus of the national postal administrations. The strategic planning of the whole corporation should be built upon this perspective.
In conclusion, it is important to see the Universal Postal Union's ambition to keep seeking out concrete answers and solutions both for the sake of member states and the entire community. In this context, it may be noted again that the PTT – as the Council of Administration Chair of the Universal Postal Union – is at the heart of all these developments since the historic successes gained at the 26th UPU Congress Istanbul. The relevant index is an opportunity for all countries including Turkey to see the small but very important deficiencies whilst moving forward towards the goal of becoming a permanent global postal power. The first step is to introduce a new strategic development plan embracing the reliability, the reach, the relevance and the resilience criteria. This will make the big difference and reveal the real position of the Turkish Postal Services in the world.
* Employee at Turkish Post, Ph.D. candidate at Yıldırım Beyazıt University