ITALIAN TRADE COMMISSIONER TO THE UAE DR GIANPAOLO BRUNO DISCUSSES WHAT HE IS DOING TO PROMOTE ITALIAN BUSINESS IN THE REGION.
The UAE has had a very close relationship with Italy for many years. With a love of quality and attention to details the two countrys’ values go hand in hand in providing the perfect environment for Italian brands to flourish in this region. Bring in the Italian Trade Agency (ITA). This government agency promotes the globalisation of Italian companies in various countries around the world. Working in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Development, the agency plays a huge part in promoting Italian businesses in the UAE and helping them to break into this market.
ITA helps to develop, facilitate and promote Italian economic and trade relations with foreign countries and promotes the marketing of Italian goods and services as well as the image of “Made in Italy”. Heading up the agency in the UAE is Dr Gianpaolo Bruno. Bruno currently holds the position of Trade Commissioner to the UAE, Oman and Pakistan. With over 25 years experience with the ITA Bruno understands exactly what it is the world is looking for from Italian businesses. At the recent Dubai Design Week the ITA constructed an exhibition area to promote design businesses from Italy who are looking to expand internationally into the region. Headed up by Bruno the project had a strong focus on small and medium sized businesses who otherwise wouldn’t have the budgets or facilities to expand into new international markets. A&E caught up with Bruno to find out what he hopes to achieve from the project.
What were you trying to achieve with the project at Dubai Design Week?
This is an image driven exhibition that is focused on Italian interiors. We organised it to highlight very unique and original objects coming from the design industry in Italy. As you know design is part of the Italian DNA and it stems from our historical background and the artisanal traditions that we have and of course in modern times these traditions have developed. There’s an evolution of the way things are presented to the general public and there is also a peculiar relationship between the designers and the manufacturers and Italian design is now famous all over the world. This is not a classic style trade fair. You don’t see the names of the companies, people have to be interactive with the objects, try them and really experience them. It is a large investment for us but it’s really worth it. Dubai is very interested in Italy so it always works very well for us.
What has been the feedback from the past years?
We have had great feedback. The last couple of years we have experienced a slightly sluggish domestic demand given the political and economic situations, but we’ve seen optimism in recent months and we are hearing positive things, so we are positive.
Why do you think the idea of something that is “made in Italy” is so special to customers?
Because we incorporate our philosophy of life in objects and our philosophy is to have an attention to detail and to care about the quality of materials and the uniqueness of shapes. So it is all of these elements that make our design really unique and trendsetting all over the world. We try to keep this tradition and emphasise in the exhibitions the uniqueness of small and medium-sized enterprises. Sometimes these businesses are not in the mainstream of marketing etc. and they do not have the financial and operational capabilities to go and reach out to international markets. So we as a government institution try to organise this for them. Sometimes these businesses don’t even have a website so we try to help them get exposure in international markets.
Are you just working with design?
No we are working with all aspects of Italian business. We have an eyewear exhibition, a jewellery exhibition so it is not just design. We always focus on the small and medium-sized businesses.
What can you tell us about the ceramic industry in Italy and how it is influencing the region?
Nowadays with so much construction we solely believe there is a drive to quality. Sometimes you can find with ceramics and other construction materials that what fits into a construction budget is not of a good quality so we would like to share the Italian ceramic industry as it is a segment in which Italy has great advantages. We would like to showcase what Italian companies can propose in the high end segment of the market. We do not want to compete on the lower end mass market, we would like to position ourselves strongly in the luxury segment because I think there is a strong market and lots of potential there. Italy has a wealth of different proposals and solutions that you cannot get here.
What about traditional Italian crafts, how important do you think it is to sustain them?
Traditional craftmanship has, in a way, evolved into contemporary arts. Without undermining the traditional way we have to recognise that the world has evolved and we have to figure out the new generation. Millennials do not like the traditional crafts so we would like to really make a difference by promoting contemporary style. Also from a demand point of view there is not much demand for traditional crafts anymore.
What do you think about the luxury industry in the UAE?
We’ve been involved in the luxury industry here since its early stages. We would like to really consolidate our presence in the market and I think there is still a strong demand for luxury items, given the fact that there is a large population of people with high disposable income. There are new luxury projects happening and we really think that with our suppliers we can make a difference in these projects.
What are your thoughts on how the luxury Italian fashion houses are doing in the UAE?
They are doing very well. They are opening up new retail stores. It’s a huge industry. Customers are really brand orientated here so we are doing a great job. Dubai is one of the main strategic markets in the world for Italian fashion brands along with other markets like Japan and the US, but this is one of our main markets and it is closer for us, so from a strategic point of view has a great importance for our companies and that’s why they keep on investing heavily here.
What are the challenges you face in your role?
The challenges are really that the backbone of the economy in all the sectors is made of small and medium sized companies. Sometimes they have very good products but they’re not prepared to market those products on an international level. So it is a very prominent and interesting market but these businesses have to know the rules of the game and it is a very complex market to understand. We spend a lot of time trying to train businesses on the uniqueness of the market from regulations to the market structure etc. as it is very important that these companies have clear objectives and a clear business plan when they approach the market.
So would you say much of your time is spent with the smaller businesses as opposed to the big brands?
Indeed. Sometimes the big brands do not even need the government support because they have their own beliefs, which is perfectly understandable. The rationale of our existence is to be able to help companies that need help and support because otherwise they can’t make it by themselves.
What’s your professional motto?
Commitment, quality, flexibility – these are the buzzwords that I use for my professional experience. I have worked in this business for 26 years and so for me commitment is important because if you do something you have to be committed and serious about it. And you have to have knowledge in what you do and be informed in what you’re talking about.
Quality because nowadays there is no room for things that are not up to a certain level and attention to detail is key.
And flexibility means having a flexible approach. We live in a very complicated eco-system so you have to multitask and adapt in situations very quickly.
What are the luxuries in your life?
I’m very down to earth, I don’t really like luxury! Luxuries to me are enjoying my family and the good things in life without having ambitious goals in terms of the possession of things. Even though my job is to promote these things, on a personal level I like the small things in life.
What’s one thing that you would still like to achieve in your role?
I would like to really make a difference. I’m a hard-worker and so I would like to see my work really working. In terms of the success achieved by the companies I serve. This would create a really gratifying experience for me.
What has been the success of companies you are promoting so far?
Many have had great success. This is a major promotional platform and many of them are getting access to customers they wouldn’t otherwise meet. The problem with companies sometimes is that they come and they don’t believe in the market enough and after one year they give up so you need to continue the presence and have constant commitment in order to achieve. The ones who realise this strategy are the ones that succeed.