by Paul Smith | AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW
Mark Bouris has described Australia Post’s rejection a year ago of his company’s smart lockers as a huge blessing in disguise. Now, TZ Ltd is poised to go head to head with the national mail provider in the e-commerce market, including plans to expand into Asia.
Investors feared the writing was on the wall for the company last May when Bouris took over the leadership in the aftermath of the failed Australia Post tender. But it has had a landmark year in which it has signed crucial domestic alliances to create its own national network of lockers. Like TZ, Australia Post saw a gap in the market for secure electronic lockers, which would allow customers to buy items online, and then accept delivery without waiting at home all day for the courier to arrive.
Despite being part of the initial trial, Australia Post chose to go with an over-seas competitor’s lockers for its full deployment, meaning Bouris had to think fast in order to save the company. “It was a massive body blow. I was extremely disappointed, but to be honest it inspired me to fight back,” Bouris says. This has entailed fighting a war on multiple fronts. Firstly, the company is advanced in plans to break Australia Post’s stranglehold on local deliveries, and secondly it is on the crest of a larger wave to become the default provider of e-commerce deliveries across Asia.
Locally it has signed deals with partners to have lockers installed in var-ious locations, including petrol stations, convenience stores and news agencies. Having just completed a successful trial providing its ADAM (automated delivery asset manager) lockers to Singapore Post, which will see at least 100 banks of lockers deployed across the country, it is eyeing the huge latent potential in untapped neighbouring markets. Representatives have just returned from Malaysia, where TZ is contemplating a bid for a national contract.
The Australian Financial Review also understands that postal providers in various countries including Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and some European markets, are looking to introduce locker-based delivery networks. With LCD screens in the locker banks, and touch screen interfaces, Bouris sees the opportunity for glean-ing advertising revenue through video content and by offering retailers the chance to perform further online sales in-store. “A year ago we were thinking we were going to be Australia Post’s sup-plier and we would essentially stop at that.
Not winning the tender made me think differently. I had shareholders I was responsible for, and had to rescue value for them, and the only thing I can do in that situation is to fight against the machine, and take on the incumbent,” Bouris says. “I would probably never have done that if we had won the Australia Post deal, and to be frank what we have now with ADAM is a far more valuable proposition than just supplying Australia Post.”
Bouris’ core idea is that he can position TZ as an important plank in a massively growing industry. He says the strategy is basically a real estate play, whereby the supplier with the lockers in the majority of most convenient locations will win the day. He says through its deals, TZ already has enough real estate to be the No.1 player in Australia.
Earlier this month the Financial Review reported on plans by former magazine industry chief turned book publisher Matt Handbury to take on Australia Post with digital kiosks in newsagents. These would allow customers to send parcels, pay bills, order books and offer a host of other services. Bouris declines to specify whether TZ’s ADAM lockers will be involved in the plan, but it would come as a surprise if a rival product ended up being used.
Asked how fighting TZ’s battles fits in with his other day job at financial services company Yellow Brick Road, Bouris says it is a case of working seven days a week, and being on call 24 hours. “It is hard, but because it is exciting it drives me to be able to do it. Whereas with Yellow Brick Road we are on the big banks, here we’re taking on AusPost,” he says. “It is a personal quest to be part of a change in the culture of consumerism. It is a big deal for me.”