Thanks to technology, a few clicks is all it takes to order products even from foreign lands. But there’s a lot going on in the backend to enable this convenience. Pitney Bowes, a Stamford, Connecticut-based global technology company that provides commerce solutions in the areas of e-commerce, shipping, mailing, data, and financial services, is one of the companies working to make this happen. Established in 1920, the $3.5-billion company says it serves 90% of the Fortune 500 companies. Manish Choudhary, senior vice president, global SMB products & strategy, Pitney Bowes, talks about how technology has transformed the business, the importance of e-commerce, and his future technology bets in an interview with Fortune India. Edited excerpts:
How has technology transformed your line of business?
We're really good at enabling commerce. We've been doing it for 99 years. We're leveraging our core assets, our core capabilities, what's made us successful over the last 100 years and we're building a new path forward for our business. We've been transforming so that we can continue to evolve as we go forward. We introduced the Data Lake, rolled out Commerce Cloud, we connected our clients digitally and rolled out an entirely new enterprise business platform. These steps are really the underpinnings, the foundation of all the evolutionary steps that we're going to take as we go forward.
By investing in new technologies and focussing on natural adjacencies, we are going after spaces where we have the expertise. The reality is that virtually every one of our clients ships and has sending needs. We can help them save money and reduce complexity by tapping into natural adjacencies including shipping (sending) technology, e-commerce logistics services, financial services, and professional services. We've expanded the dialogues with our clients from mailing to sending, talking with them about packages, flats in addition to mail pieces. We've moved many of our offerings from physical to digital.
We have created several products and solutions which have received global recognition and are proof of our business transformation. In 2017, we launched the SendPro C product, our flagship mailing and shipping solution. In this two-year span, we have refreshed 75% of our products in our small and medium business portfolio. And 75% of those new product offerings are shipping-enabled. We are taking advantage of the shipping opportunity in multiple ways and have partnered with selected third parties, who can bring meaningful value to our clients. This is one of the most interesting opportunities for us as we go forward.
Has important is e-commerce?
You need building blocks for getting into and helping clients in a space. In our scenario, the building blocks are our own history in handling the mailing and shipping side of things. The fact that we have hundreds and hundreds of carriers integrated globally; the fact that we have worked with postal services globally; the fact we are helping the largest e-tailers and e-commerce companies to handle their online shipments and online postage and they are able to do everything in cloud—the same fit could be manifested in e-commerce companies, manufacturing, in large warehouses, and retailers.
The reason why e-commerce is at the anchor point is, if you look at the market trends, e-commerce is growing significantly compared to the other industries, wherein it comes to handling of parcels, packaging, and shipping. And the shipping is not just the element of sending things, it is also an element of client experience. When a client buys something, they consider shipping as the last-mile experience. How is it packed, how much did it cost, did he get it on time, could he track it, can he return it? And a seller who is trying to sell it is really looking for three things: he wants to send a parcel fast; or as cheap as they can. In both such scenarios they are looking for all of that experience which a company which has been around for a long time is able to provide. And in our case, we have invested heavily over the past five-six years in building those technology foundations… whether it is building data-layer housing capabilities, whether it is building data analytics on every parcel, studying millions and millions of parcels and billions of data points to predict accurate parcel delivery with the right cost. So, there is an underlying technology backbone, there is an underlying building block of experience in different places which helps us to reinvent and transform as we are doing right now.
How much do you spend on R&D?
A combination of R&D investments and a highly-trained global workforce has allowed us to enhance client experience while we scale our technology platforms. We spend about $60 million of revenue on R&D.
What are your future technology bets?
The future would see focus on predictive autonomous decision-making from more sophisticated data analytics to better serve clients or improve operational efficiencies in organisations.
There would be more decisions made by machines and algorithms which would result in the attention of organisations’ shift towards risk profiling and understanding risks of autonomous decision-making. This would also increase the emphasis around cybersecurity as well while organisations try to manage information, data and networks at an even larger scale.
You've spent close to 20 years in the company. How have you seen it evolve?
Pitney Bowes is a company in motion that is dedicated to delivering long-term value to clients, employees, shareholders, and communities. Innovation continues to be our core strength and differentiator. As a 100-year-old company, we have reinvented ourselves several times over the years. We have evolved from a predominantly mail services company to a global technology company that is focused on innovation to drive success in commerce for all our clients.
Our culture of innovation, our investment in people, technologies and processes has helped us earn the trust of many companies including 90% of the Fortune 500, iconic retail brands and marketplaces, many of the world’s most respected banks, insurers and financial institutions, and more than 750,000 small and medium-sized businesses. We serve our clients with innovative products, services, and solutions such as advanced design thinking, machine learning, location data and intelligence, IoT and analytics, that can move their business forward.