TRADE FACILITATORS

Oman 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Oman Post is the only company that delivers anywhere in Oman, allowing the most rural parts of the country to have access to international commerce.

Abdulmalik Al Balushi
BIOGRAPHY
Abdulmalik Al Balushi is CEO of Oman Post and has been leading its transformation since 2016. Balushi brings over 17 years of extensive experience in both the public and private sectors from various industries, including logistics and transportation, telecommunication, energy, and utilities. As CEO, he has introduced a new and progressive work culture at Oman Post, in addition to playing a critical role in advancing the company’s portfolio by enhancing its customer experience, operational excellence, and sustainable growth. A graduate of the National CEO Program in partnership with IMD Business School, he holds an MBA from Sultan Qaboos University and a BS in business administration from the University of Arizona.

What role will Oman Post play in the development of Oman's e-commerce market?

Postal services around the world have undergone fundamental evolution in recent years driven by technological advancements that have resulted in reinventing ourselves and moving into financial services and retail digitalization. In particular, the rise of e-commerce has revied the importance of postal services. Postal operators are becoming e-commerce and m-commerce facilitators after combining logistics and financial services. Oman Post brings specific solutions to the e-commerce ecosystem such as door-to-door delivery and cash-on-delivery. The first choice e-commerce player when it comes to last-mile delivery is the post and not courier, express, and parcel (CEP) players because CEPs were the original Business to Business (B2B) players in this space. The postal services on the other hand were always operating in the B2C and C2C space. Over the last two years, Oman Post has made great strides to play a major role in the e-commerce sector. We focused on key projects particularly related to transforming our domestic network, implementing track and trace system and customer relation management, as well as launching online shopping and setting-up the financial services business line. As a result, between 2017 and 2018, we saw e-commerce parcel traffic grow by 26%. Two other services that saw expansion were express mail service (EMS), which grew by 35%, and parcels, which grew by 227%. We fully embrace the opportunities that digital disruption and IoT present. We are taking advantage of emerging technologies to generate new efficiencies, products and services, and deliver long-term value. We very much see ourselves not only as important players in the e-commerce industry, but also as facilitators of trade, developers of enterprise, and enablers of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises.

How is the government working to promote e-commerce growth?

The country has taken e-commerce seriously and there is high-level participation from the government in the e-commerce space. A national e-commerce strategy is currently being developed, and there are many policies being implemented on a national level. We need to play catch-up, but we have made great strides in a relatively short period of time. The Middle East is one of the highest growth markets for e-commerce. According to our research, e-commerce will witness exponential growth over the next two years. Efficient infrastructure development for e-commerce is a key component of the national strategy in terms of customs clearance, storage, packing, picking, shipping, and returns. Notably, Oman's customs department is among the fastest in the world, and we need to market this asset heavily. We are actually working in close coordination with the General Directorate of Customs at Royal Oman Police to further improve processes to enhance trade facilitation. On the other hand, success of e-commerce and m-commerce depends upon the effective electronic payment systems and instruments. To this end, the Central Bank of Oman has deployed a payment gateway to support payments for online transactions using domestic debit cards. Similarly, Oman Post plans to collaborate with local banks as payment service providers (PSPs) and is also seeking to build a payment aggregator activity in order to be able to process online payments.

What new products have you offered since the market was liberalized?

Matjar and Ersal are two non-traditional products that we have introduced. Ersal is a commercial last-mile delivery arm that is a separate joint venture that aims to deliver cutting-edge projects. It uses the customer's mobile phone's GPS coordinates as a GPS location instead of the physical address, allowing faster deliveries. Since the introduction of Ersal into the market, the entire landscape of last-mile delivery has changed. Matjar is a consolidation shipment service from the US that makes it less expensive for people to shop from the US. Although there are similar services, we are the only company that delivers anywhere in Oman, allowing the most rural parts of the country to have access to international commerce.