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Spring 2014: New CEO Sees the Silver Lining By Katherine O'Brien

April 9, 2014

“We all want to see a very healthy postal service,” says Ramesh Lakshmi-Ratan, who joined Bell and Howell, LLC, as CEO in January 2014. “While [waiting for reform] has been tough for the industry overall, we are hoping to capitalize on the delays by continuing to deliver more solutions to more players in the industry who can benefit from postal automation discounts. With the new rate structure, the things that Bell and Howell does very well, such as presort software and sortation systems, become more important.”

Ratan believes the Postal Service, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) and Congress will ultimately bring together the right regulatory and legislative structure. “I think they’ve come to understand the mailing industry’s concerns much better than even two or three years ago,” says Ratan. “I worked with all of those groups at various times, especially in my days with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). They are being more thoughtful about what the postal service can and cannot do. In the short term, Bell and Howell is actually in a good place. In the longer term, we will definitely leverage our opportunities from a regulatory point of view as things get implemented by Congress and the Postal Service.”

Ratan remains bullish about the power of print—particularly direct mail. “Transactional mail volumes have slowly decelerated, but standard class has stabilized and even shown some growth opportunities,” he says. “We’re definitely taking advantage of that.”

Uniting the strengths of direct marketing with transactional print also holds potential gains. “We continue to do things like use the power of digital and printing on the envelope to combine the capabilities of direct marketing and direct mail. We are providing the capability for specially features like geolocation-based and data-driven offers in combination with things like transactional documents,” adds Ratan. “These are great opportunities for growing our business.”

Although Bell and Howell’s solutions have traditionally been placed in production centers, the company is moving into data centers, too. “We’ll be in the C-Suite, talking to CMOs, CFOs and the CEOs as we bring in data analytics marketing capabilities,” says Ratan. “We’ll continue to work with the folks who know us well and know us for decades, whose factory operations we support, but we will also be building new relationships among the marketing leaders, the financial leaders and the CEOs of companies.”


Transaction and mailing industry professionals know Bell and Howell for its rock-solid line of high-speed inserters and other equipment as well as its document-processing and postal software. But the company is changing with the times—it is leveraging its analogue and digital strengths.

At PRINT 13, Bell and Howell debuted a cloud-based tool for mailers of all sizes. GoData is a self-service data-quality and list-enhancement solution. Users can immediately access address-cleansing and list-processing services 24/7 using only their Web browser.

“We’ve gotten a tremendous response from the marketplace,” says Ratan. “You can expect to see a lot more developments from us in terms of capability and the kind of data used and how we enable it to be used in the traditional paper-based as well as non-paper-based communications. Delivering analytics, data and software as a service from the cloud, not just for postal data and mailing lists but further intelligence beyond that, is a huge part of the opportunity that we’re working on. The whole data marketing side of our business and the different products we’re looking to launch this year bring a whole new level of relevancy to print. Given my background as the former EVP and chief operating officer of the Direct Marketing Association, (DMA), I’m really excited about that part!”


We can also look for Bell and Howell to do more in the parcels and parcel management space. “We will actually be going into the factories and senior executive suites of entirely new target customers who do fulfilment and logistics parcels, ecommerce and retail,” says Ratan.

Intelligent Parcels, Ratan explains, are similar to the mail creation process. “In parcel creation, it’s labelling, addressing and the data and analytics that go with that, the sorting and the management. So these are new capabilities in terms of data analytics and cloud-based services.”

FAST-TRACK MOBILE SOLUTIONS BH MobileMail also exemplifies how the company is helping customers change with the times. It’s a secure, hosted and brandable platform that lets customers deliver bills, statements and marketing content together with personalized messages via a mobile app platform available for all major smartphone brands. “We have developed mobile technology that can easily be white-labeled and deliver branded, opt-in, fast-response communications to customers via their smartphones,” says Ratan. “We’ve done all the work—customers can eliminate the high costs and complexity of internal development.” [end of item 3]

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