by Marzia De Giuli
MILAN, Italy, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Clients going "wow" is the goal achieved by brands able to combine artisan beauty with universal technology, industry experts told Xinhua in a recent interview.
It was in 1969 when Azimut Benetti Group chairman Paolo Vitelli decided to turn his passion for the sea into an important business, and founded a sailing boat chartering company which grew to become the world's leading private group in the luxury boating sector.
How did the Azimut Benetti Group to perform better than other competitors during the recent economic crisis that halved the yachting sector's global market? The group's turnover last year was 600 million euros (816 million U.S. dollars), only 30 percent less compared to the pre-crisis levels.
"Since the beginning, we have made the effort to present ourselves as a 'Made in Italy' brand in all markets of the world, where we have always exported 90 percent of our production," Vitelli told Xinhua.
In 2010, the Azimut Benetti Group opened a shipyard in Brazil, but in fact the possibility of similar investments abroad or the collaboration with foreign companies has remained very limited, Vitelli went on to say.
"Our intention is to remain strongly Italian," the chairman stressed.
Being a way of life symbol, however, requires a long-term evolution of strategy that Azimut Benetti Group CEO Ferruccio Luppi defined as "the difficult pursuit of balance between craftsmanship and industry," a key factor to success of modern "Made in Italy" products.
Three elements, Luppi said, have characterized the history of "Made in Italy" products.
The first, beauty, has met for centuries with the second, craftsmanship, resulting in beautiful products built with high-quality materials which have the roots in specialized districts across the country.
But the globalization of markets has imposed a third, fundamental ingredient, which is technology, he highlighted.
Putting these three elements together means combining the handicraft tradition, which often lacks organized methods, with the industrial approach, which requires constancy and punctual service to allow brands to penetrate new markets, the CEO pointed out.
With 2,100 employees and more than 3,000 full-time equivalents, the Azimut Benetti Group has melted an industrialized production process with a more "flexible" work model as regards suppliers of the handcrafted parts.
"We know that artisan businesses -- some of which rely just on a few master craftsmen -- are subject to peak demand in some periods and we try to pander to them," Luppi told Xinhua.
Since several years, the Azimut Benetti Group has also cooperated with prestigious universities and scientific centers in Italy and abroad to exchange expertise and create opportunities for research and trials.
The result is luxury yachts equipped with the most innovative technologies but highly personalized both in the layout and interior design according to different tastes and cultures.