While ‘front door’ access to theAsian mail markets is still barred bya lack of liberalisation, DHL GlobalMail is increasingly exploring backdoor routes, through joint venturesand other initiatives in the direct mailarena, according to its chairman, KlausKnappik.
An example is the company’s jointventure with Yamato Holdings in Japan,which was formalised in March. Thenew joint venture company – YamatoDirect Marketing – is involved in allaspects of promotional mailing forbusinesses, including market research,running address databases and printingof mailshots.
‘This is a relatively new market inJapan, but is an important niche,’ saysKnappik. ‘What we are trying to dois find out if the Japanese market isready for these type of promotions.’ He does not expect liberalisation of the main Japanese market for ‘some way into the future – the next five to ten years at least.’
Another area of activity is documentmanagement for banks, insurancecompanies and related businesses.This includes invoicing, despatchingbrochures and the scanning of documentsinto archives. ‘Essentially, whatwe are looking at is where we can addvalue to the basic mail product, as a wayof getting a foot in the door in thesemarkets,’ says Knappik.
In the past two to three years, DHLGlobal Mail has also opened offices tolook at similar activities in most Asiancountries, including Indonesia, Malaysia,Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines.It has for some time had branches inHong Kong and Singapore, and hasan established direct mail business inAustralia.
India and China are also definitetargets, and Knappik says discussionscontinue with China Post about possiblejoint activities. DHL Global Mailalready provides linehaul for ChinaPost for international airmail, which ishanded over to DHL’s air network tobe flown out of the country.
The movement of international mailfor post office is DHL Global Mail’sbiggest success story. Some years backit created GLOBALMATCH, whichKnappik describes as ‘one of the firstglobal mail freight forwarders’. Thisconsolidates and containerises mail toobtain better rates from airlines andto make distribution more efficientand reliable.
The containers can also be trackedin transit, matching another growingtrend among the world’s post offices.But Knappik says only in a few countries– such as Germany and the Netherlands– can the tracking be integrated withthe post office’s own system. ‘In mostcountries, post offices lack the EDIcapability, and we can only track themail until we hand it over to them,’he says.
DHL’s increasing international airnetwork – and in particular the newcapacity available to it through its stakein Polar Air Cargo – has a key role toplay in this market. Though expressshipments account for most of themovements on the air network, mail isgiven allocations too, Knappik says.
The Asian picture is in dramaticcontrast to Europe and the US, wheregreater liberalisation means DHL GlobalMail can get into mainstream mailoperations. Knappik himself is nowbased in the US, which now accountsfor almost $1bn in revenues, and whereeverything but final delivery to homesand offices is liberalised.
In Europe letter market is supposedto be completely liberalised from 1January 2009 according to EuropeanUnion proposals, but in practice thepicture remains patchy.
‘The UK and Sweden are alreadyfully liberalised, and most of thenor thern European count r ies ,including Germany will also be,’ Knappik says. ‘But our view is that southern European countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, have no intention of liberalising fully, and this is not the even playing field we envisaged.’
– Peter Conway