As CEO and managing director of the Italian Trade Agency, Piergiorgio Borgogelli is on a mission to make the most of Dubai's growth by promoting Italian SMEs in the region
What are the main responsibilities that your role as head of the Italian Trade Agency entail?
My responsibilities as CEO and Managing Director entail the general management of the Italian Trade Agency. Our mission is to promote our exports and support the attraction of foreign investment in Italy. We’re especially focusing on the latest omnichannel promotion strategies to meet the challenges of rapidly evolving international market trends while supporting Made in Italy in the world.
In what ways do Italian Businesses contribute to the UAE and GCC economy? (Would be great to get some numbers)
Our exports to the GCC accounted for €12.3 billion in 2017. We had a 3.4 percent share of imports into Kuwait, and 3.1 percent into Saudi Arabia. We are generally among the top ten suppliers in every GCC country, with exports in technology, industrial machinery, fashion, jewellery, and food, among the best performing. The UAE is the most important market for us here with €5.3 billion in Italian imports. FDI flows are also an important contributor to our long lasting relationship – the UAE is among the top 15 foreign investors in Italy in terms of employees in foreign controlled companies. The UAE also has nearly €10 billion in total FDI invested in Italy. It also leads in tourist arrivals with 258,000 in 2017 spending over €300 million in our country.
Are there are key successes you can outline that show how ITA has helped Italian businesses become a vital part of the UAE/Gulf economy?
SMEs, the backbone of the Italian economy, usually face several challenges in engaging in international activities as they lack the organisational and financial capability to have a direct presence. Since 1988, the ITA in the UAE has fostered the internationalisation of hundreds of Italian companies through information, assistance, consultations and promotion, establishing valuable relationships with local counterparts and penetrating major retail networks. A recent example is the agreement ITA signed with Lulu Hypermarkets toward promoting Italian food products in the Gulf region. Carrefour also has a special corner dedicated to Italian food in its stores and has just signed a contract with an Italian company for the supply of gourmet products to be available starting September. Our Italian Luxury Interiors exhibition, returning for its 8th edition, is not only been the perfect platform for Italian companies to showcase their products, it is now also a key element of Downtown Design – the focal event of Dubai Design Week.
What is a target or goal you are aiming for by 2020?
We’d like to see Italian companies and brands consolidating their business in the GCC area. With Expo 2020 we need to confirm that Italy is home not only to fashion, food and furniture, but also technology and innovation. A more than five percent growth forecast in high end hotels in Dubai this year can be aided by our infrastructure, construction, luxury decoration and consumer goods capabilities. We have 8,000 innovative startups offering a range of solutions, from cleantech to aerospace, that could easily meet investors needs in harmony with Vision 2020 innovation goals. It’s why we invited top UAE investors to Naples earlier this year to attend our Open Innovation Stock Exchange (BIAT) where we showcased 150 projects realised by startups, academic institutions and innovation hubs. Expo 2020 will be the opportunity to show the strategic importance of connecting minds and we are hoping to make the most of it.
How tough a market is the region to manoeuvre given that it is so prone to eco-political turbulence including and not limited to oil prices?
Geo-political turbulence could always be an issue, but the GCC countries, especially the UAE, score the lowest in the Italian risk rating map in the Middle East, along with high export potential index values. That’s why many opportunities exist in the region given the rapid process of economic development and innovation taking place.
Are there any other challenges in particular to work in the market?
One of the challenges in the past has been the peculiar regulation requiring companies to set up a presence in the market through joint ventures with local partners. It’s a tough challenge for certain SMEs.
What are some qualities in your line of work that you feel are invaluable in the job?
To inspire a widely structured organisation to think out of the box and focus on innovation in practices and strategies.
What are some qualities that you always look for in your staff?
I always look for motivation, a proactive attitude, and especially, the ability to match an execution-oriented approach to strategic vision. In other words: thinking out of the box while focusing on results delivery and execution.