The United States Postal Service (USPS) is in dire straits. After releasing a public statement in September proposing the closure or consolidation of 250 processing facilities, a reduction in mail processing equipment by as much as 50 percent and the loss of 35,000 jobs, you can say they’ve seen better days. The “inventor of the Internet,” V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, who just so happens to be an MIT professor, has other plans, however. Plans that could save the USPS billions of dollars.
Apparently, all it takes is entering the email management industry.
“Large Fortune-2000 companies and small businesses are seeking personnel and solutions every day to manage their growing volumes of email,” Ayyadurai wrote on his website, referencing a White House competition he won in 1994 by creating his own email management system called EchoMail.
According to Ayyadurai, large companies lack the infrastructure necessary to efficiently handle the amount of messages that are dumped into their inboxes on a daily basis. Although he developed his own software, Ayyadurai still thinks human eyes are needed to filter through every companies’ incoming emails, separating those marked urgent from spam.
“The 120,000 USPS postal workers, facing impending layoffs, trusted and true, can do this job,” Ayyadurai writes. “U.S. postal workers can be trained within 30-60 days, given their current background, to offer a USPS email management service. From simple estimates, the USPS can generate a minimum of $10 billion per year with these same workers versus laying them off as currently proposed.”
In 1997, Ayyadurai said he met with USPS officials to convince them that their trusted brand could offer a suite of email services to various companies. Their alleged response to him? “We make $50 billion a year; we are like a Fortune 10 U.S. company. We cannot make changes to our business model so quickly.”
Their response appears to be haunting them, especially now that they’re releasing statements titled, “Postal Service Faces New Reality.” In the past 5 years, mail volume has declined by more than 43 billion pieces, according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. First-Class Mail has also dropped 25 percent and single piece First-Class Mail — meaning, letters bearing postage stamps — has declined 36 percent in the same timeframe, and nearly 50 percent in the past 10 years.
What’s ironic, however, as pointed out by Fast Company, is that while the Internet could “save” the USPS, the Internet relies heavily on the postal service. What would e-commerce businesses like Amazon, eBay, Gilt Groupe, Birchbox and Rue La La do if the USPS stopped offering fairly reliable, affordable snail mail delivery service? As Fast Company pointed out, those companies rely on the “low costs and consistent availability of USPS shipping to keep their own services going, and margins healthy.”
Ayyadurai has been working with USPS officials to formulate some sort of plan, and on March 15th, he’ll speak on “The Future of the Post Office” on behalf of the MIT Communications Forum.
Image courtesy of Golden Fool Productions