We are delighted to add a new perspective to our blog. Paolo Pugni, based in Milan, is an international trade consultant. He tells us more about the current situation in Italy, what it means for Italian exporters and the appeal of Latin America as an export market. For more information on Paolo’s work, please visit http://www.paolopugni.it/

How are businesses in Italy reacting to the economic and political crisis?

First let’s say that indeed the crisis is here, no doubt about it.

Having said that, the situation is not the same for everyone. First of all we have the big companies, multinational or Italian, and then we have a huge number (about 95%) of SMEs, mainly family owned. SMEs are quite unnoticed although they truly represent the backbone of our country.

Now the point is: how are these companies ruled and lead? I know many entrepreneurs and CEOs who are farsighted, whose companies are growing, exporting a lot, fighting the competition (even the low-cost competition from the Far East) with innovation and creativity, the true Italian strengths.

On the other hand you have those typical Italian entrepreneurs, focalized on their product,  unaware of the changes, blinded by their pride, that are losing market share and profit.

Is there a stronger focus on exporting now as a result of this crisis?

Yes, as I mentioned, export is perceived as a way to overcome the slow but consistent shrinking of the Italian market. Those companies that are prepared to invest to grow are considering exporting much more than just an opportunity, but as a sort of mandatory option.

What do Italian businesses think about exporting to Latin America?

We always looked to Latin America as a sort of “cousin region”. Many Italians emigrated there in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Argentina was the privileged destination! So it’s quite natural for us to consider Latin America when exporting.

Also, we are now hearing about the development of the BRICs… Italians have a special love for Brazil, maybe due to football…

Which are the key Italian exports that can compete with exports from other countries in Latin America?

I do believe we can compete in creativity and innovation: Italian companies are known for quality and what they have to learn is how to position and leverage this quality in a way that is not just connected to the product but to the solution for the client.

I do believe flexibility can be the key: the capability to follow the client’s request with the creativity that our people are so good at.

Is there any government support for exporters?

Yes, there is funding for companies willing to invest and for consultancy. In the last two weeks I’ve personally been to several workshops with concrete examples about exporting and simple guidance.

What are the key concerns from Italian businesses when thinking about exporting?

I think money is the first one: how much do I have to invest and how can I support this growth from Italy?

I would say that the key issue is sometime the opposite: too few concerns! I mean, I’ve seen a lot of businesses failing in exporting because they just tried to export without a plan, without a strategy, just going there thinking they were expected to. A naïf approach can destroy a company, a wrong strategy approach can jeopardize it.