• on Jul 20th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 127 comments
    As noted in the update on Wednesday, there was a tremendous response to last week’s brainstorming exercise! As of Friday afternoon there were almost 350 comments posted -- many more than usual! If nothing else, this shows widespread and heartfelt concern for the well-being and financial viability of the Postal Service. Not only was the quantity of postings notable, so was the variety of ideas; they covered a broad spectrum, from cost-cutting possibilities to new lines of business. And many of the postings received replies, for instance Nostradamus' original posting received 13 replies, which is a testament to the thoughtfulness of everyone involved. The creativity shown by the participants makes categorizing the ideas difficult, but we’ve attempted to develop poll questions to highlight the common themes, and get your reaction as to the relative importance of these items. While every comment received attention, some ideas stood out as particularly thought-provoking or creative. In order to gauge your reactions as to the viability and value of a sample of ideas, we’ve developed another poll question. The following ideas were submitted by Sheri, Randy, D. Traver, Move into the future, JM, and others. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jul 13th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 527 comments
    Wednesday Update:

    Wow. Thanks for the fabulous response to the brainstorm. We’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer number of thoughtful responses. To give everyone enough time to comment and us a little time to read through everything, we’ve decided to extend the period for taking comments and post a blog about the brainstorm with the poll on Monday. Until then, please keep sharing your ideas. All suggestions received by Friday morning will be candidates for the poll. Oh, a word about moderation, we moderate every comment, and our policy is not to include comments that include vulgar words (even if the words are partially obscured with other characters) or involve name calling. We have not been able to approve a few comments that were otherwise very interesting because they violated our comment policy, so please double check your comment before you submit it. Thanks again!

    Original Post:

    The Postal Service is facing a financial crisis and needs to pursue every option it can to improve its net income. Pushing the Envelope thought it might be a good idea to ask for your thoughts. How do you think the Postal Service can save money or raise additional revenue? To make this a bit more interesting, the blog team will review your ideas and pick the most popular or most interesting for a poll. We’ll post the poll on Wednesday. So brainstorm now, and be sure to come back on Wednesday to view the shortlist and to vote for your favorites. Share your ideas in the comments below. Describe the idea, whether it involves cutting costs or generating revenue, and how much you think it could add to the Postal Service’s bottom line. Happy brainstorming! This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Jul 6th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 27 comments
    In developing countries, postal services are often critical to reaching a vast underprivileged populace. How do posts in these countries cope with the tension between their universal service obligation and financial viability? A look at today’s India Post offers some insights. First founded under British colonial rule 150 years ago, India Post connects India’s people through a network of more than 150,000 post offices. More than 80 percent of these post offices are in rural areas, where residents primarily depend on postal services to communicate with the outside world. In India’s urban areas, however, middle class consumers have options. They also rely on the professional services of private couriers or the Internet. India Post has shown consistent losses. In recent years, private-sector competitors have siphoned off revenue, and costs have risen dramatically. Not surprisingly, given its financial difficulties, India Post’s widespread rural presence has drawn a lot of criticism. The Indian Government subsidizes more than half the cost of rural post offices, but they are still unprofitable. Critics argue that many are unnecessary and should be closed. Another common prescription for India Post’s losses is privatization. Proponents believe that privatization would improve the quality of services. To improve its financial condition, India Post is experimenting with options such as providing investment and emailing services to customers in rural areas. It already runs the largest savings bank, with a customer base of more than 170 million people. Rural and urban post offices also offer a variety of insurance products. Another initiative is micro-finance. In some rural areas, India Post offers loans to small businesses that may be denied credit by mainstream banks. Many of these services have helped offset India Post’s losses while at the same time providing financial services in deprived areas. There is hope for India Post’s future profitability. India has experienced phenomenal economic growth in recent years, and as a result, there is great potential for growth in postal services. To capitalize on the opportunities of India’s economic progress, India Post is trying to cater to the demands of the growing business sector by providing international money transfers and other services. In urban areas, India Post is exploring providing access to ATMs and non-postal retail services like train and bus reservations. India Post could also consider expanding these types of services to rural areas. The rural population would greatly benefit from these and other services such as faxes and electronic money orders. There are many options for India Post to leverage its network. By improving its infrastructure, technology, and customer service, India Post can continue its important role in India’s economy. What kind of a business model should India Post adopt? Do you think India Post’s experience providing universal service has any lessons for the United States Postal Service? This blog is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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