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Inside the Ukrposhta: Navigating War and Crisis

This time, we’ll be talking with Julia Pavlenko, Director of International Operations at Ukrposhta – Ukraine’s national postal service. Get to know her better 👇

Ep 17: Inside the Ukrposhta: Navigating War and Crisis - graphic1

Inside the Ukrposhta: Navigating War and Crisis – with Julia Pavlenko

During our conversation, Julia told us about his journey of becoming the Director of International Operations at Ukrposhta – the national postal and courier service company of Ukraine. We also discussed different aspects of the postal industry and its challenges, especially how Ukrposhta manages their work during the war, how technology helps them, and much more! Meet Julia!

Points covered:

  • Julia’s background and professional journey
  • The role of the Director of International Operations
  • How her everyday job changed during the war
  • Tech solutions at Ukrposhta
  • Tech solutions implemented during the war
  • Automation plans
  • Managing resources in the war zone
  • How the war affected their services

About Julia

Julia Pavlenko is an experienced logistics and operations professional currently serving as the Director of International Operations at Ukrposhta, the national postal and courier service company of Ukraine. In her role, Julia is responsible for overseeing the company’s international operations, including partnerships with other postal services around the world and the delivery of international mail and packages.

Prior to joining Ukrposhta, Pavlenko held various leadership positions in the logistics industry, where she gained valuable experience managing international supply chains and operations.

Under Pavlenko’s leadership, Ukrposhta has expanded its international delivery capabilities and developed new partnerships with postal services in other countries. She has also been instrumental in driving the adoption of new technologies and processes to modernize and improve the efficiency of Ukrposhta’s operations. Overall, she is a skilled and dedicated professional who has made significant contributions to the success of Ukrposhta and the logistics industry as a whole, particularly during the challenging times brought about by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Recently, we also asked her a few questions to get to know her better – read them here.

[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to the ‘How We Innovate’ podcast presented by Applandeo hosted by me, Wiola and my co-host, Bryan. On this podcast, we talk with leading innovators, pull back the curtain on their industry, and get to know how they use technology to achieve success, as well as share the story behind them and their businesses.

[00:00:22] Host – Wiola: On today’s episode, we have a special guest from Ukraine, Julia Pavlenko, who is a director of international operations department at Ukrainian Post and the real woman on a mission. Julia, we are happy to have you with us today!

[00:00:38] Guest – Julia: Thank you so much for this invitation. It’s really expecially opportunity for us to share some experience of Ukrposhta team, who are all people who are responsible and who are interested in in logistics topics, because we have many challenges, and we find very creative, special opportunities that help to solve our problems. And I think this will be interesting for all people.

[00:01:03] Host – Wiola: Great. Yes, that sounds great. Thanks for joining us. We are all aware that Ukraine, Ukrainian post is working now under very, extremely difficult circumstances of Russian invasion of Ukraine. And we truly hope that this war is going to end very soon, with Ukraine winning it, of course. So can you tell us a bit more about your job and Ukraine Post itself to give us a better idea of you know, how, how Ukraine Post operates? And how has it changed since the beginning of the war?

[00:01:38] Guest – Julia: At first, I would like say that Ukraine Post, National Post Ukrposhta is a big company, because our staff for more than 65,000 people. And it’s more than 12,000 postal offices across the whole territory of Ukraine. And you know that Ukraine is a large country in the center of the Europe, the second largest country in Europe, and we connect each small city, big city, every location in Ukraine. And Ukrposhta is not only about postal services, not about only parcel delivery, it’s the big issue some for payments, financial services, because we bring many payments to people across the whole countries and we big retail networks, because we provide a special goods, food and some products for people across the country. So the big business in Ukraine, one of the the second large company in country and in point of view of the staff. And for us, it was very difficult to meet these challenges of war, because in each location, we receive different challenges. For example, in some part of Ukraine Ukrposhta postal offices was occupied. More than 20% of territory of Ukraine was occupied. And it means that 20% of network of Ukrposhta was completely blocked and not available to use for operational business. And when we consider in about time from Crimea, occupations, eight years ago, it means that more than 2300 postal offices not already in network of Ukrposhta. Right now, we have many people who join Ukrainian army, more than 771 person right now, and join Ukrainian special forces and military department and not available to provide, save own jobs in Ukrposhta. But we think that it’s very important, the idea that the whole country support that Ukrainian army and even Ukrposhta.

People distribute not only their services, goods across the country even join this army. And the facets big issues that we have some indifferent period of war. We have, for example lack of fuel and we need to go, for example, to train solutions. So we remember maybe 20 years ago in previous period of our history that postal companies use, for example train connections. And we decided to very quickly coordinate the, our activities with headquarter of Ukrainian national train companies rail well companies and we receive for example, more than 60, 26 special train who bring Ukrposhta parcels across the whole country. We connect right now, six city, and it’s bring some special economy save our time save our fuel and it’s really important for us.

So we, every day we try to find the extra solutions. For example, early all. Our company, I’m responsible for international business export. And earlier we use the main airport in, in Kiev Barispol who connect very well the worldwide. But now we use. 12 airports in Europe, especially in Warsaw, in Frankfort, Amsterdam, Riga, many other locations.

It means that Ukrposhta brings some parcels to trucks and then distribute by road, by trucks, all these items to different locations and collaborate with aircraft companies direct in Europe. And then we bring goods across the whole countries.

[00:05:15] Host – Wiola: Talking about deliveries export and import. So now mostly it’s about what are you sending? What what are you delivering? This is like obviously personal belongings of people living in Ukraine or, or leaving Ukraine and moving to, to Poland or some other country.

[00:05:34] Guest – Julia: Yes. I should say that even before the war Ukrposhta was very active player in the supporting small and medium size e-commerce export. For example, in Dublin three years ago, we received special awards for this special programs of supporting of YE expert because we provide. For example, free of charge educations for many small businesses. And the main idea if you have already production in Ukraine, please use Amazon, eBay, Shopify Instagram, Facebook, and distribute and deliver this parcels worldwide.

This means that Ukrposhta even before the war had the great volume of items, more than five millions items we distribute from Kyiv. Before the war we have Business with USA because two cargo flight direct from Kyiv to New York JFK Airport was brought every week. Last year before the war, we sent nearly 100 cargo flights from Kyiv to New York.

And it means that Ukrainian small businesses produce everything which are very popular on eBay or Etsy. It’s decoration. It’s children, house woods. It’s some fashion or something else. Everything. Because in, you know, this Etsy is very famous marketplace worldwide and people in Ukraine, very talentful and they can create some special goods with very customized and this really nice activities on Etsy. If you see some statistic from Etsy marketplace, it means that more than 1 million items ready for sale from Ukraine. We belong to 10 top countries worldwide on Etsy. Right now we have some big cooporation with eBay marketplace even for example, 12,000 people from Ukraine sell something on eBay and. Into some statistic of eBay headquarter in emerging markets to this group of countries belong more than 150 countries worldwide Ukrposhta belongs to to top five countries.

And this means that we are very strong in, in this small year export. So for us, when war start, the first, my idea was, Not stop the international delivery and International Exchange because I remember time of Covid when we have three years ago, COVID start. We have the same situation when we completely stop the passenger flight.

Very important to understand how we look like the logistic supply and chain for the export early before the war. We use direct contract with 15 air craft companies. And we have direct distribution from key For different locations. And for USA the, one of the biggest locations we use is special cargo, charter flights.

Now we change the model. We go to different 12 airport, including Warsaw. The great thank you for all our partners, including Polska Poczta. Because we use the warehouses of other postal companies like Polska Poczta like Slovakian, post Latvian post Deutche post in Germany, and all these great our partners or and our friends help us to provide the close transit.

It means that we, for example, pick up parcels in each small city in Ukraine. Ukrposhta covers postal services for 23,000 of location in Ukraine, it’s a great networks and we pick up in each small city, these export parcels bring to kyiv, provide custom clearance, and then distribute in one of 12 airports in Europe.

And then we receive the direct flight for Paris or London or New York or, or Sydney in other locations. It means that our partners help Ukrposhta save export. But when we start with war in the first day of the war I was a happy person because you remember that covid not stop worldwide and sometimes one time per month people worldwide from the postal industry have some zoom about covid issues. And in the first day of the war this covid issue was on shadow. And in 12 o’clock in the first day, I, I came to this Zoom and ask, please. In our, in our new circumstance, it’s not about covid even. In Ukraine, start war and all your government already share the experience and, and statement statement that USA and as European countries support Ukraine, please don’t stop import to Ukraine.

Continue to receive parcels to Ukrainian people, not only about commercial parcels, even humanitarian aid. And we receive some special offer from Poland, from Slovakia and Latvia. Three countries will be, receive Ukrposhta parcels and then Ukrposhta came with own trucks and pick up all these dispatches and then forward through the cross border.

And we bring this parcel to Ukrainian people and it means that Ukrposhta provide in the first day this bridge and it saved our business and our operations.

[00:10:57] Host – Bryan: Yeah, and, and I guess maybe even to just go back to a year ago, right? So you as the director of international operations, right. So how has your job changed since then to now? Right. So what are some new responsibilities that you had that you obviously didn’t have before this war started?

[00:11:15] Guest – Julia: I should say that it was dramat ical topics for me personally because my location in center in the Kyiv and we see this rocket attack, we, we see for example, in the first night very close to my personal house, two kilometer far from the direct rocket came to eight floor buildings and it was the great news for, for all people, for my families. But my job opportunities, my job responsibilities not change. Cause I remember Covid time, I remembered that I working for Ukrposhta and I’m very active person. And when I joined Ukrposhta six years ago, we had a very difficult situation in Ukrposhta because many people think that Ukrposhta is a dead organization. It’s because private company collapse the whole wall whole market and ok, it’s like the big di dinosaur. With old-fashioned not comfortable. It’s, it’s like the poor companies, but. And for me it was a big challenges every day to change something in these big companies and war it’s only give the extra maybe it’s not so called opportunities, but extra challenges. And early it’s help ed us to in communication with partners because partners decided to help Ukrposhta. Many of them called and sent mails how it’s possible to help what you need, and I was happy that right now we have such society of supporting each other and for example, from different countries we receive more than 2 million kilograms of humanitarian aid. Some posts say don’t pay for the export. For example La Postaine in France or some countries send for us special trucks which bring to military zone because, you know more than 220 trucks was completely destroyed by Russia occupants.

And it means that it’s not enough trucks for us. And the ideas of safe countries, it means that we need to bring parcels, food, medicine or, or something else in each location of Ukraine.

[00:13:28] Host – Wiola: Exactly. So we also wondered how do you manage resources? I’ve found this information that over 900 postal offices have been damaged and couple of hundred are still under the occupation. Obviously, you have fewer facilities. The volume of delivery probably is much bigger than before the war. And how does this work?

[00:13:53] Guest – Julia: I should say that you maybe remember about virus four years ago because when most of Ukrainian government company was attacked by cyber attack from some unknown virus.

And we, we have some experience four years ago how to manage companies when we have not enough internet or not enough communication opportunities. I should say that we have a very strong top manager team in regions and we use Facebook messengers or telegram chat to distribute very quickly, the informations. Our CEO every day in communication with team of 65 person. It’s regional directors and it’s directors of some for some businesses in May headquarter of Ukrposhta. And we collaborate very quickly. We you know, that first time of the war all people in Ukraine united very well.

And you can receive some calls and sometimes this happens that ex Ministry of Economy or transportation in Ukraine. All people not reminder about some positions. People try to provide some useful help to communicate with with, as partners to bring some humanitarian aid or to save the, the business and even with our partners and competitors on the market.

We collaborate together, bringing these humanitarian aid for Ukrainian people. And you know every day we have some rocket attack. It’s, it’s very popular. It’s not so, so good call word popular. It’s very often happening in Ukraine and we have some special so-called rules. When we have this notification attack all staff go to some underground shelters.

Then we close all postal offices, but when we have a new, big problems with blackouts in Kyiv and across the whole country we find the paper documentations 10 years ago when Ukrposhta not fully automated was. It means that we don’t have, not in each location some computers and internet connections, and we have some special papers, rules how to receive parcel, how to deliver parcel, how to provide payments on papers, and all people bring to postal offices.

Bring some parcels payments and without no power, no light, no electricity inside of postal offices. But we understand that for example next morning, everything will be okay with power the people. Came early to the postal offices early in the morning and so-called to make this information flow for, for these parcels.

It’s extra cost for us, but we under, we decided not to stop. In, in the same time, we start to buy some generator, some star links, and for example, we use starlink for postal offices removal postal offices. It’s mean. We before the war, we start implement some technology, so-called mobile postal offices on track.

It’s very popular in some big countries like Canada, USA many other who have the great distance between locations and Ukrposhta right now have nearly 2000 trucks which are full equipment with all necessary stuff, three people on board bring to different small villages and provide the full list of, of our postal services, so-called parcels delivery of medicine, delivery of food newspapers payments, everything, what we we need, but it’s not fix buildings. It’s it’s possible to change schedule for example. We are very flexible and before the military zone in this area top manager of Ukrposhta who’s responsible for some special territory of Ukraine in deep cooperation with Ukrainian special forces, and we received so-called information. Some some right to go or not to go to some locations because director in regions decided open or not open postal offices today. Cause taking into account some safety reasons because we are responsible for the people, for us is the, the biggest priority all staff safe stable with no some problematics issues.

The, the main activities for us. In such way we try I understand that for, for stable economy, for the stable company, it’s sound so crazy, but for it’s Ukrposhta everything is okay.

[00:18:46] Host – Bryan: Yeah. I mean also maybe just to piggyback on Wiola, right, when we spoke about just the lack of, I mean, the destruction of sorting facilities and the trucks destroyed. Right. So how has that affected, like delivery times? You know what, like how much of a delay is there, if any?

[00:19:03] Guest – Julia: Yeah, I should say that in the first months of war we had a big delay because the first of all 35 percentage of road was completely destroyed across the city of Kyiv because Kyiv is there like so-called center of distributions and it was very difficult to reach some locations from Kyiv to Lviv or Kiev to Charkov or other main region. Some for, for example, for for, for understanding. Early before the war, we need to only 8- 10 hours between Kyiv and Lviv. But in the first month of war, we need two, two days. It’s it’s difficult to, to reach these locations.

Now we have the stable schedule, no problems. And right now we use train connections and train hopefully we have some joke in Ukraine. Even when in Germany, for example, bad weather, Ukrainian rail companies don’t have such big trouble with schedule, because everything is okay. Rocket attack stop, everything is okay. Please follow your train. Everything good. And it’s helped us to be in, in schedule. We asking many people to help us. For example, some families ha husband help the woman on, in postal offices. And it was like the family business cause I can even not describe you the feelings in current, no, in the moment when war started because it’s very difficult to describe right now because right now is a stable situation. When you came to to Kyiv you see the normal life like in Warsaw Cracow or any other locations. Cause the main idea not to stop economical development in countries, it’s very important to buy something to go to different locations and use, for example, e-commerce because it’s like the big supply chain and postal services is very important members of this supplying chain. So we decided not to stop.

[00:21:10] Host – Wiola: How are you doing with the areas that are the most dangerous? As, as you said, obviously you need to take care of people and their lives and make sure they are alive, but at the same time you have the areas where people need help. They need humanitarian help, they need medical staff to survive and food and other stuff that you deliver.

So how do you keep this balance?

[00:21:35] Guest – Julia: As I already said, we’re in a deep dialogue with Ukrainian special forces and in most cases in these locations military staff a campaign Ukrposhta staff and two trucks together Ukrposhta truck and for example some military trucks bring to some locations. We have some special flexible schedules. We have some special security measure equipments. And if I bring some photos for you, you see how look like Ukrposhta ladies in postal offices it’s special activities and I should say that maybe Ukrainian people really brave. It’s not only on the military line, it’s not not only Ukrainian Army, even many other companies including postal delivery companies because, two special cases I would like distribute for you, share with our people.

One driver bring one time 28 checkpoints, Ukrainian and Russia because they have task to bring pension payments to Lugansk region. This region was under occupation but in the first time of war even the aggressors understand they yellow us to bring to some locations and distribute this money of for example, some foods.

And we have some special cases, for example, in Chernihiv or Cherson, very famous places who was under occupation. Chernihiv was more than one month. And Cherson seven months. We bring Ukrposhta continue working in this location, but have not breached between the headquarter of Ukrposhta. This region’s businesses in, in Ukrposhta collaborate together with some retail networks.

We receive cash money from the retail networks, and then we distribute payments to social social payments pensions. Everything what we need to do and headquarters of Ukrposhta bring transfer to bank account headquarter of this retail chain in, in Kyiv or Dnepr or other locations.

This we have this opportunity to pay some payments for people. Even under occupations. And it was really nice. And some Ukrposhta staff for example, when we received the huge numbers of damages postal offices and one cases in Sumi region was completely shocked for all Ukrposhta staff. Because one rocket completely destroyed the postal offices in these small villages, but head of postal offices decided open own postal offices in own houses.

It’s every people from this village was welcome to these houses and receive some parcels of payments direct in house. It was such brave examples. Give them more energy for all people to continue our stable work.

[00:24:19] Host – Bryan: Yeah, it’s inspiring and you know, and I know you also mentioned earlier, right, how you guys are using like messenger, telegram, right?

Are there any other maybe technological solutions that you guys are using that you haven’t used before? Like, so maybe new mobile apps, some trackers or anything? Anything that you guys have been using since maybe.

[00:24:40] Guest – Julia: I should say that in most cases messenger in Facebook and Telegram quite enough for very briefly communications, but in we continue to use a Microsoft office full exchange.

We have I should say that ERP system enterprise systems who help us to manage all operation, financial operation in Ukrposhta before the war, we installed this big software in, in our companies. It’s help us very well because we can sit in, in different location. We can provide this full list of our services.

Everything will be okay. Before the war, we have very big plan of rebuilding of Ukrposhta because Ukrposhta is a very old fashioned style company from Soviet time, for example, and in the infrastructure of Ukrposhta was completely poor. And we received, cause there were some big confirmations that we received big loan from European Bank of Reconstruction and Rebuildings more than 100 million Euro for in investment in infrastructure of Ukrposhta. Now this big project on the halt on, on the break but we decided not to stop and continue already open and already start project with, for example, we finish during the war, we finish for example, installation of mobile postal offices because when war start, we have only one 1200 postal offices. And now we have almost nearly 2000 and before we receive from C3 and the big projects we pay early two years ago for the big volumes of these trucks.

And we, we decided not to stop with these big projects. The same with certain station. We need automatization already we install this line for sorting parcels. In such way we, we find the solution how to provide services in case when 20 percentage of population go out from countries to other European location and cities and Ukrposhta staff it’s the same population of Ukraine. It means that many people came out from the country.

[00:26:51] Host – Wiola: How do you see you know Ukrainian post evolving or in terms of, as you said, like you need some automations and other solutions. So what would be those technical solutions that you see that you are going to need them to actually, you know, go even farther with your operations.

[00:27:09] Guest – Julia: I should say that first of all we change this model with the fixed postal offices and move into these mobile postal offices is give us opportunity to save money and to be flexible on the schedule. If we receive some volumes of parcels in one region, we spent more time of these postal offices in this location.

When we don’t have no business in this location, we go out from this area and everything is okay. It’s number one, the second point. It’s we decided to invest in these charter programs from Kyiv to to USA because the main business for us in e-commerce export of e-commerce in these directions, we help our big clients like Ali Express Alibaba Group.

To receive some parcels to Ukraine via our report in Riga Ali Express big charters to Riga and together with LA Post bring these parcels to Ukraine very quickly. And we in, we introduce some special products. We present a special offer. We decided Stop with not good services.

Right now, we invest in mobile applications some extra software and try to to be in collaboration with many our partners because sometimes we don’t have enough financial support and close the, during the world right now, more than 55,000 millions of dollars and a huge sum of money for, small not, not small, but these companies and We tried to find the extra businesses. For example you remember the, our story with postal stamps issues. We, we decided that postal will be, postal stamps will be very nice. This topics, it’s for people older generation in population.

But right now many young people would like to buy these postal stems. And we issued during the last year more than 50 million postal items which we distribute not only in Kyiv and Ukraine, even worldwide, we now we have own shops on eBay on Amazon, and we, it’s possible to buy Ukrposhta stamps on on these very famous mar global marketplaces.

And I should say that it help us to receive some extra money for rebuilding our operational issues because, for us the, the cost of transportation became more and more bigger. You see how dollar currency exchange fuel prices, everything is very, very high comparing to the before the start of the war.

It’s a big investment from other side. So we try to find every opportunities, for example it’s not about business about some social project. And Ukrposhta is com open for very special social initiative. For example we take we implement some special programs of exchange light bulls old style to the power very effect efficiency.

Lightbulbs, lED lamps and European commissions bring some, many millions of these lightbulbs to Ukraine and across the whole networks of each person can came and bring old style lights. And receive completely new LED lamps for, for own houses. Every is free of charge.

And it’s available in each location across the whole country in Ukraine. We already distribute more than 20 millions of these LED bulls. It’s mean that we save more than we save the same volume of power as, for example provide nuclear reactors of the whole nuclear.

[00:37:03] Host – Bryan: Cool. This is where like the point we wrap up. Right? So so, you know, usually we just do some general questions just to get a little bit to know about, more about you personally. Right. So so I guess one would be like, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

[00:37:19] Guest – Julia: I should say that this war, this situation show me that very important speed of the, of decisions because for example, it’s my main idea. Time is very important. It’s the biggest opportunity. And we need to implement very quickly each project. Cause time of waiting is the big mistake for all people. We can something can happen not so good as we plan in our mind, but sitting without, no doing nothing, it’s a big mistake.

[00:37:50] Host – Wiola: So thank you very much for joining us today. That was Julia Pavlenko, Director of the International Operations Department at Ukraine Post. Thank you, Julia.

[00:38:01] Guest – Julia: Thank you so much.

[00:38:02] Host – Bryan: Awesome. Thank you.

[00:38:03] Ending: Thank you for listening. Make sure you get our future episodes by subscribing to us on Spotify, Apple, Google Podcast, or YouTube. Get your apps and web apps built today by visiting applandeo.com.