Founded in 1912, Posta Shqiptare SH.A, Albania’s national postal service, was part of Albania’s telecommunications service until the 1990s, when the latter was divided into two companies. Today, the Albanian post has branched out into much more than postal work, providing a wide selection of financial products and services that range from utility payments to bank transactions. With its focus on public service, the Posta now wants to help boost e-commerce in Albania, an underdeveloped sector that offers good opportunities for investment
Where does the Albanian post stand today?
After the division into two companies, the Posta entered a very tough process of redefining its structure and business plan to embrace the open market. We are state-owned but we work as a private company and have no privileges: we have to fight day to day in the market to obtain results.
What are the main duties of Posta?
We offer a lot of services and products, from postal to financial and banking. We are the biggest financial supermarket in Albania and we try to operate as a market leader.
How do you operate in the financial sector, and where would you like to position Posta?
We’re trying to embrace all the most important financial services, starting with the public ones such as the payment of utilities and pensions, but we also offer bank transactions on the account of third parties, money transfers, treasury bills, agro-credit and more.
Why would an Albanian citizen choose Posta for her or his financial services?
Because we are the largest retail company: we have approximately 500 offices scattered north to south and east to west; we are the biggest company in the sector with 2,500 employees, and we are the safest, the most secure and the most economical. Our mission is to serve all Albanian citizens and also SMEs, offering them a trusted partner who offers the lowest interest rates. We are also a big support for larger partners like private banks.
How do Albanians view the Posta brand?
We used to have PR problems because we were being viewed like an old brand that did not aim to innovate. But from day to day and year to year, people began seeing the changes, and understanding that we now have the same system as a bank when it comes to security and technology. So now our everyday battle is to get more people to believe in our brand and our services. People have already started thinking of Posta as more than a traditional post office, but also a place where they can conduct a lot of their financial and banking activity. We are a one-stop shop for their payments, their utility bills, their credit issues. They don’t need to go to four or five institutions or offices to get things done anymore, they can simply go to the post office.
You are offering e-government services through partners like ADISA (Agency for the Delivery of Public Services). What are these services?
Our agreement with ADISA is one of the main partnerships that we have, not only in numbers but also in terms of public service. We are now offering cash payment solutions inside their modern facilities and provide a big portfolio of services. This used to be done at banks that charge high fees, but now we offer cash payments at our own offices as well. This service was introduced just a few months ago and it is working very well, we’re very happy with it. Now we’re trying to exploit this cooperation further, adopting tech applications and expanding our portfolio of services to make it even easier for citizens to operate with their mobile phones.
Are you also exploring the possibilities of e-commerce and package delivery?
Yes. The most important investments today at the Albanian Post are in the field of technology. We are investing more than 30 percent of our annual income on this. We are aiming to connect all our offices to a dedicated server, and investing in infrastructure for our dispatching and logistic points. We already have 80 percent of our offices connected. We are also going to launch an e-parcel service, an essential part of e-commerce. Start-ups and e-commerce sites in Albania have a high potential for developing their business because they will no longer need to import goods and pay duties as now. If you are a website that sells shoes, you don’t need to buy the shoes and distribute them yourself: you can place the orders through the postal service, which will deal with all the logistics, and can even deliver the products to the final consumers. We offer the full chain of logistics backup for e-commerce businesses.
How is this initiative working so far?
Thousands of businesses are still doing things the traditional way so we expect to have a real return on investment, as there is a lot of potential for it to grow. We can serve an estimated market of three million consumers in Albania plus a further two million in Kosovo and two million more in northern Macedonia, in cooperation with the postal services there. We have official agreements with them, and we think we can take this cooperation further.
Are there any other technology-based initiatives that you are working on?
Yes, we are working towards e-money, to start selling prepaid cards so people can pay with them at the supermarket or online. We are working on an agreement with the biggest supermarket chain to give cardholders discounts. This is going to be a huge innovation. We also have a lot of innovation in traditional products like taxes and fiscal obligations, pensions, unemployment benefits and other public subsidies.
How does Posta align with EU regulations and standards?
The process began many years ago, and we have greatly improved our operations and security system to bring them up to par with any other Western postal company. I sincerely issue an invitation to our German readers to come and visit Albania, where they will find many new businesses that need support and a more global vision of doing business. The Albanian postal company is here to serve them and make things easy and secure for them. They can use our services as a safe channel for their business needs. They will find a secure public partner in us.
Are there any areas where investors could get involved directly in Posta?
Yes, we are developing e-commerce and making a big investment in this area. Tourism is also booming here and there is a connection with the post office because we offer low commissions on money transfers. Plus every one of our offices has a dedicated business space where entrepreneurs can promote their activities. We also offer real data on population, households and other statistics that can be useful to investors.
What is the overall vision of Albania’s postal service?
It is to get closer to the people of Albania in order to serve them better. We focus on individuals but also on SMEs because we know they need simplified services with low commissions. We pay a lot of attention to senior citizens and work to give them more services, and we have a corporate social responsibility to have a positive impact on society, not just by helping them meet their tax and legal obligations but also through by helping local communities, its youth, its artists. We want to give back to local communities by offering them support, financial aid and activities. We also have a big interest in start-ups in Albania and want to help them increase their capacity.