Santalucia Mobili continues to consolidate its position in foreign markets. And not only Europe. In rampant economies like India and China that continue to grow, made-in-Italy design and creativity are highly sought after. This trend is changing the market dynamics back home in Italy and influencing the global economic order.
But how does the Italian package of skills and professionalism look abroad? Jacopo Galli, General Manager at Santalucia Mobili, tells us in this interview as he explains how the company is operating abroad, and reveals all about the “Italian Habit” project led by Santalucia Mobili.
There is a lot of talk about how Italian companies should “do business abroad”, but what does “abroad” mean for Santalucia Mobili?
The concept of “abroad” is not just a matter of geographical borders; it is much broader than that, encompassing different styles, strategies, organisations and policies. For example, today we can think of Europe as an “Italianised abroad” in terms of its speed and readiness; then there is the area outside Europe, which includes the United States, Canada and China, which already have a consolidated import-export culture. There is India, which is a young but vast market; and there are the Arab countries, which are big importers of furniture.
According to a survey by the API [the Italian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, ed.], 55% of Italian SMEs do not have a specific international sales department or any specialist staff. How is Santalucia Mobili structured?
In terms of our organisational structure, we have been reinforcing our exports department since 2013. The team now consists of a director, two export managers and two back-office staff members. Not only that, we also have a project team for large and small orders made up of a contract manager, a designer and another member of staff who takes care of the paperwork and logistical side of things.
Santalucia Mobili has recently opened showrooms in several new countries. Yes, last May we opened a showroom in Ekaterinburg in Russia, and in November we launched two new Santalucia Gallery spaces in New Delhi and Pune in India.
The one in New Delhi is a traditional showroom, while the one in Pune is in a “Design Centre” that has a large food court and a fully equipped family area, and there is a “home concept” built around this with multiple international furniture brands. We have also already shipped furniture for another opening coming soon in Mumbai.
Is Santalucia Mobili going to be targeting any other specific geographical areas?
Yes, thanks to some small and medium contract supplies for residential and tourism projects, we are also increasing our presence in markets such as the UK, India, Qatar and also Greece and Cyprus, as well as sending our first sizeable sample selection to Australia. Italy clearly continues to be our most important market and we cannot overlook that, but we are working on several levels to try to boost business in new markets outside of Europe – that is where we are going to see big numbers in the future.
If you want to enter new markets, you also need to work on production and technology.
Absolutely. For that very reason we have launched a new automated squaring and edge-banding line, precisely to improve production efficiency and organise ourselves in a certain way. We have also added a second single-side edge bander in the customisation production department, as well as a second point-to-point CNC machine. We are working on the numbers side of things with a management control web platform for the products themselves, external communications and technology, to ensure we are responding to all the needs of both current and future markets. As I said before, we are working on several levels.
To sum up, what are the main differences between doing business in Europe and outside of Europe?
In European countries, showrooms are about sales and retail; in countries like India, showrooms are also a good place to showcase our services for the large turnkey-project market, which is the other area Santalucia Mobili is focusing on in terms of growth. For the turnkey-project market specifically, we will be in London in March for a trade fair, and in New Delhi in February.
Another difference is in terms of mentality: when it comes to furniture, customers abroad prefer to deal with one person or company instead of lots of different ones.
Is that why you set up Italian Habit?
Exactly. Italian Habit brings together different companies offering furniture solutions for the retail and turnkey-project markets. This brand has all the strengths of a group, but without the constraints. It is a network of businesses able to furnish all kinds of spaces, working as a team, and this concept works well abroad.
What is Santalucia Mobili’s role within Italian Habit?
Santalucia Mobili is the lead within Italian Habit, which is also thanks to our new tech systems that ensure we can respond to specific requests. But the idea is that there is no one company that is more important than the others. We are all part of the same brand family that brings different skills and structures to the table, so as to offer comprehensive furnishing supply solutions.
Could we say that there is strength in unity within Italian Habitat?
Yes, absolutely. Personally, I really like this concept of a network of the best Italian companies coming together, and I think it should be promoted. I am confident that, over time, we will be able to collaborate with other companies who see things in the same way.
We have to work together as a team because customers abroad want to buy skills together as a package, but we’re not there yet in Italy. We still think and act as individual companies and that has to change.
Going back to Santalucia Mobili, have you got any more partnerships lined up after the success of the recent collaboration with OVS?
After working with OVS on their window displays, we have since launched a new collaboration with an international washing machine chain, whereby we supply the furniture for their various new openings. We are increasingly looking to adopt the “Blue Ocean” strategy and explore different fields but that are still inherent to our product, because there are some great opportunities to be had.