From May 11th to 14th, more than 30,000 visitors made their way through the five pavilions of the Shanghai fair, where they were able to view the best wares that 832 companies, from 26 countries around the world have to offer to industry professionals. The Italian contingent was impressive. In fact, the group stand under the auspices of Gimav was certainly the largest, in terms of numbers – with 30 companies participating, indicative of the leadership role that Italy’s machine-building industry occupies in the entire global glass sector. “Participation in international trade shows is still one of the most worthwhile and effective tools for building a meaningful network of business relationships – points out Dino Fenzi, Honorary President of Gimav and true pioneer, among glass entrepreneurs, in exports to China– and this is even more true in a market like the Chinese one which, in the last five years, has undergone dramatic change and grown tremendously.”
It was the kind of overall growth that brought about the creation of many new companies and the development of an extremely tightly woven industrial fabric, where previously it was almost non-existent. All of this is leading to a direct commitment by the leading Italian manufacturers: “Being on site in China with a manufacturing and distribution facility is pivotal, because the market is vast and highly competitive. Sales alone are not enough any more; it’s crucial to guarantee ongoing assistance and in-depth understanding of the real needs of a highly diversified customer base – continues Dino Fenzi – “The new Chinese companies are extremely modern and very well designed; often they are innovative, compared to ours, because they were built recently, based on very advanced criteria.”
The most recent Gimav efforts with its member companies were concentrated on participation at China Glass and Mir Stekla. Although the potential of each was different, both the Chinese and the Russian markets offer strategic opportunities of pivotal importance for Italian technology, caught up in the tide of recovering, yet fiercely competitive international markets.
Another very important international meeting place for the glass sector was Mir Stekla, held in Moscow June 6th through 9th. Once again, Gimav spearheaded Italy’s participation with a group stand that hosted 11 of its top member companies, seven from the flat glass sector and four representing hollow glass. We’re talking about a market of strategic importance for Made in Italy, even though the after effects of the harsh economic crisis are still being powerfully felt. Right up through the end of 2008, Russia accounted for 12.86 % of all Italian glass industry exports, with year-to-year growth that fluctuated from 15 to 20%. With the arrival of 2009 the slow-down was sharp, caused by the dramatic financial crisis and by the still outdated socio-economic structure of the country.
Wealth is still concentrated in the hands of a few financiers, who had (and still have access to) huge resources but who have suffered many setbacks due to the repeated stock market crashes. Now that the economy is showing clearly positive signs, and everything would lead us to imagine a new economic miracle, the deterrent is lack of liquidity. Businesses, despite the fact that they are still relatively undeveloped numerically, are ready to make the new and necessary investments, but the faucets of lending institutions are still closed and the credit crunch slows down orders for new machines even more. “In reality, things are already starting to move, but it’s still too early to talk about a rebound to the levels of the past – confirms Renata Gaffo, Director of Gimav – even though, especially for the hollow glass sector, the pace of orders has already picked up to a good level. The size of the market and its undeniable need to grow, however, lead us to believe that we’ll soon see an appreciable increase in the flow of Italian exports to this area.” There are still only a few Italian companies that have established manufacturing or distribution centers in Russia but that is only because, despite its great importance, even in terms of the future, the needs of that market are still limited: “It’s a market that is close enough to be managed with a well-organized network of agents – comments Renata Gaffo - They have warehouses and well-supplied parts stores in the area, and the duty charges, although not very low, are not weighed down by a series of protectionist ties as occurs in other countries. Furthermore, there is no domestic tradition connected to the glass industry. For now, in short, exportation remains the simplest route to follow.”
Less dynamic and with fewer financial resources freely available, Russia is a market with an immediate growth rate that is a bit less striking than China, but over the next few years it will prove to be one of the more valuable destinations and offer greater development for Made in Italy products. In fact, as Carlo Zuccarello, ForEl Spa Marketing and Area Manager for Eastern Europe maintains, “The large groups are already restructuring in anticipation of the recovery – for the next five-year period, major new investments are already in the works. We expect to see some very positive changes by year-end. This is why it’s important to maintain a significant presence”.