SingPost looks to e-commerce as mail volumes drop

(From left) Dr Hermione Parsons, director and associate professor at the Institute for Supply Chain and Logistics of Victoria University, PSA International group CEO Tan Chong Meng and SingPost group CEO Wolfgang Baier at the World Congress of the In
(From left) Dr Hermione Parsons, director and associate professor at the Institute for Supply Chain and Logistics of Victoria University, PSA International group CEO Tan Chong Meng and SingPost group CEO Wolfgang Baier at the World Congress of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE LOGISTICS ASSOCIATION

Singapore Post (SingPost) believes e-commerce - helping businesses sell goods online - is the way to go as it grapples with continually declining mail volumes.

SingPost group chief executive Wolfgang Baier told a conference yesterday the company faces many challenges in its traditional mail business.

Fewer people send letters nowadays, but costs have also risen, service expectations are higher, and the market is liberalised so SingPost must watch out for competition.

But that does not mean that the end is nigh for the $2.4 billion company.

Dr Baier said that SingPost will "protect the core" of the mail business and the digital mail platform.

The majority of the company's revenue and operating profit still comes from its mail business.

But the company will also "grow the wings" which include its logistics and e-commerce units, and the retail and financial services operations at outlets such as its post offices.

Dr Baier said Singapore is the "ideal hub for e-commerce", a fast-growing industry especially in Asia.

The company's e-commerce services include helping other firms to transport their goods between countries, storing goods in warehouses and delivering them to customers.

SingPost also helps firms with digital marketing, and managing their online stores and payments.

Dr Baier was speaking at the World Congress of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, which is being held in Singapore this year.

The event, at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, is being hosted by the Singapore Logistics Association and will close on Saturday.

Another speaker, PSA International's group chief executive Tan Chong Meng, highlighted some key lessons that the port operator has learnt since it started expanding overseas in 1996.

PSA has invested in its core business of port terminals, and over the years sold its businesses in other areas such as property, he said.

The company has also invested in operations that complement its ports, such as an inland container depot in Thailand.

"In many countries the associated logistics is a key accompaniment to a successful port; in fact they can't do without each other," he said.

PSA ensures that knowledge and expertise is transferred across its ports in various countries.

It also works with global partners such as shipping lines and other port groups.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told the conference that Singapore is a good launching pad to take advantage of the growth opportunities in Asian markets.

"Beyond raising productivity and efficiency, we are planning and investing ahead to ensure Singapore remains an attractive and competitive hub in the long term," he said, highlighting Singapore's large investments in the aviation and maritime sectors.

jonkwok@sph.com.sg