Entrepreneur in Profile: InPost a disruptive billion dollar idea
January 18, 2015
Chances are you would never have heard of Rafal Brzoska and the truth is neither would we had it not been for researching the top ten growth industries in Eastern Europe in late November. But then Rafal and his business InPost really caught our eye because it is a simple idea that has innovated on a pre-existing series of products.
While many of the world’s postal corporations are in steady revenue decline there is still a growing demand for parcel delivery. In actual fact as figures prove the number of parcel movements in developed countries has increased as online retailing has taken off while letters and personal mail are fast becoming things of the past. While traditional postal corporations are taking time to transition into new business models companies such as InPost have already arrived.
Launched in 2010 InPost now operates in 20 countries around the world where they provide parcel lockers that customers can access to both drop off and pick up parcels. They access the lockers using a code delivered by SMS text message to the customer’s nominated number. The lockers are located in public spaces such as shopping mall car parks and petrol stations which adds a huge element of convenience (who hasn’t taken the day of work in order to have to wait for a package to be delivered by someone who say’s they will be there at 10am and don’t show up until 3pm in the afternoon!).The service range varies from country to country with some options including delivery.
So how did this relatively simple idea take off? First of all you have to go back to where the concept first got off the ground in Rafal’s native Poland. As we all know entrepreneurs in countries that are beginning to climb out of years of economic stagnation and depression do relatively well because sectors of the economy are ripe for innovation. In the case of Poland this was true given its move away from communism and a single state system in the 80’s and 90’s. The State Postal system effectively had a monopoly.
Image: company founder Rafal
As Rafal described it the State Postal provider had the monopoly on all mail weighing less than 50 grams. To get over this he used small metal name plates to letters that increased the weight therefore getting around the monopoly. See the traditional market was under pressure Poczta Post (Poland Post) took Rafal to court but was unable to hold the growth of the business back. The other thing working in Rafal’s favour was as Poland began to transform itself economically it also banked on trying to make itself a regional distribution hub – in other words the Government set up the infrastructure that ultimately enabled Rafal and InPost to provide central, cost effective distribution.
In fact, you could argue that the total cost of the initial start-up idea was only about $6,000 when, during his third year studying economics at Krakow University he built a company that delivered bulk mail advertising leaflets. Within three years that company had become the largest leaflet distributor in Poland. As for taking on Amazon it stands to reason that smaller, newer and potentially more agile companies like InPost can move a lot faster when bringing new ideas and innovations to market.
Some commentators have likened Amazon to Microsoft in so far as it needs to continuously out-innovate itself if it is remain relevant and profitable. As organisations grow and develop they soon become bogged down in administrative weight which slows the process of innovation down hence allowing those smaller organisations to get ahead.
So what lessons can we learn from Rafal and InPost:
Look for industries that are old, tired and therefore prime for disruption: The postal and parcel delivery sectors are both old and in need of renewal – that is why InPost took off so quickly because a relatively simple innovation was able to meet a current consumer problem.
Look at inherent small problems that can be overcome relatively quickly and where those solutions to small problems can quickly be turned into a product or service offering
Map out the potentially pre-existing networks or infrastructure you can take advantage of as opposed to having to establish new and costly ones. InPost’s use of shopping mall car parks and petrol stations meant no costly new brick and mortar operations that a traditional post office has.
About the Author: Matthew Tukaki is CEO and Editor of EntreHub.org. You can follow him on Twitter HERE. EntreHub is the world’s global network for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small business. If you would like to syndicate or share this article please feel free but make sure you attribute it back to www.entrehub.org
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