Have you been in business most of the time?
What are the main differences between doing business in Russia and in Italy?
First of all, I have to mention the difference between what is happening now and the way it was 20 years ago when it was an absolutely different world. Now, it is still different, but globalisation is working, we can see now that the difference is not so big. We are an Italian Interior Design company, our clients have worked for many years with Italian companies, with furniture, textiles, marble and so on. This has given them a lot of experience, and now they know what are the correct procedures and so on. If there is a difference, it is because many clients still work with offshore companies, and for us, an Italian company, this can create problems because every couple of years these offshore companies change.
How do you find Russian business people on a personal basis here?
Even now they are a bit naÃ¯ve, strange as it may sound. I think it depends on the background of the individual. We have two different types of clients, the first being architects and designers. They are not really business people. They buy our furniture, or textiles and marble, but I cannot consider an architect a businessman because he already has a profession. So the kind of business we do with these people is quite different from the kind of business we do with the dealers, with the retailers. They are commercial guys, sometimes we have a big guy who started from nothing 10 or 15 years ago, and now own companies that have a turnover of 20, 30 even 50 million Euros a year. They experience what we might call growth problems because they donât have a professional management team behind them. Managing a company when it was 5 people selling tiles is one thing, but now, when it is a big company employing 50, 60, or 80 people, sometimes they have difficulties managing it, because they donât have a good management background.
Are peopleâs tastes in Russia moving on from the pseudo nouveau-riche phase?
Yes, we are about to completely redesign this show room, for example. The market for this kind of design is almost completely saturated. The new potential clients are fairly young; they travel abroad, are exposed to a lot of different design tastes, they prefer letâs say classic design, but not this kind of Rococo style. They donât like minimalism; they prefer classicism, but more simple. Letâs say the new style is: modern classic.
How long is it going to be before Russians can produce the things that you sell?
It is difficult to say, because just as there is Silicon Valley in America we have Tile Valley in Italy. 80% of Italian tile production is concentrated in a very small area. To produce a good tile, you need a lot of very good technology plus a lot of know how which is handed on from one generation to the next. So it is not only the technology that is involved, which is all Italian, it is having an area where all the relevant technology, skills and know-how, plus hundreds and hundreds of companies which produce tiles are present and work together. This is very hard to replicate.
Presumably you like it here in Russia? You get on with Russians?
First of all, I am very grateful to this country because it has given me a great professional opportunity. Of course I love it here, otherwise I would not have stayed.