venerdì 18 maggio 2012

Flash of genius!

When I say “Florence” the first things foreigners think of are art, fashion, food and, of course, Italian latin lovers. However, the city that gave birth to Dante is also a cauldron of fermenting ideas in less famous sectors, but still very strong: research and technology. Today we speak with Carlo Bruni, Marketing Manager of CDR, an engineering company made up of a team of real Florentine inventors.

1)      What is CDR ? What do you do?
CDR is most of all an engineering company that applies its skills in several fields including mechanical and micro-mechanical engineering, photometry, biochemistry, electronic engineering and software development. We realize solutions for niche markets and potential customers.
It’s active on the market since 1990’s, when it was founded by a group of professionals with many years of experience in diverse sectors. Our most important sectors are the electronic toll collection system, the medical diagnostics system and the food test system.
Our systems are most of all applied in:
-        Telematics, with the electronic toll terminals for highways and parking lots. CDR plans and produces specialized terminals for tickets and magnetic stripe cards to be used for the electronic toll collection in the Italian highways or barcode based systems for parking lots.
-        Medical diagnostics, with hematology systems for the determination of the erythrosedimentation rate in blood samples, instrumentation for clinical chemical diagnostics and hemostasis systems.
-        Food diagnostics, with systems for the quick analysis of food, like olive oil, alimentary fats, milk and wine.
The quality of our products allowed CDR to be involved in important projects with leading national and international partners, like FIAT, AUTOSTRADE, FAAC, OLIVETTI, ENEL, NCR, INSTRUMENTATION LABORATORY , HOSPITEX DIAGNOSTICS, MENARINI, FERRERO, PARMALAT.
A synthesis of our activities and mission can be seen in a video, in Italian, at this address:

2)      Describe your most successful patents for us.
Innovation is one of our priorities. Some of our ideas and projects are protected by patents, but many of our products are protected by the brand FOODLAB, like Coca Cola, just to make an example.
Our most successful patents are:

·    The electronic toll collection systems for tickets and magnetic stripe cards (like VIACARD, BANCOMAT and credit cards) applied on the Italian highways;
·        In medical diagnostics, the system for the determination of the erythrosedimentation (VES), that allowed us to sell our instruments all over the world.
·       In food diagnostics, the system designed to measure the lactic acid in milk samples. And also, the brand Ferrero adopted our FOODLAB systems to measure some chemical standards in their product Nutella.

3)      What major challenges and problems do you face?
The major challenges lie in all these stages: conception, production, marketing, selling and collection.  Each phase presents some difficulties and has to be faced with specific skills. You must think of a company like a circumference, that needs all the 360° to be complete: if something is missing it cannot be closed. But, if I have to choose, the major challenge lies in understanding the market needs and then trying to satisfy them with our knowledge, mixing intuition, creativity, technology and experience.   

4)      What aspect of your business gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Our greatest satisfaction is to work in a group in a high empathic concern climate. It allows us to observe and analyze the world in order to understand suggestions and needs that can be translated in products for different sectors.  This value has always allowed us, in more than 40 years, to develop complex systems in various sectors, from telematics to medical diagnostics, going through food diagnostics and, back in time, systems for the textile engineering and even weapons for the military sector.

5)      You are an exception in the Italian brain drain. Is it difficult to choose Italy nowadays?
It is difficult to find a perfect recipe in the actual global market. We decided to prioritize a life philosophy, before being engineers, chemists, computer experts and, more in general, technicians.       We based our business on technologic innovation “niche markets orientated”. In telematics, for example, first in Italy, we introduced the electronic toll collection system for magnetic stripe cards in highways, parking lots, large-scale retail trades and interbank market.  
In the present world, time has decreased and the value of a human product walking at a same rate with human relationships doesn’t cope with the profit oriented strategies of the multinational companies. It is important to possess an “inner compass” that points research towards those activities in line with your own spirit, to be strong and proactive, to hold on and never lose your nerve.  

6)      What would Italy need to be more competitive?
Global market has made many well-known sectors not accessible anymore, because now we are facing the not equal competition from East Europe and the BRIC countries. But we still operate in other sectors, thanks to the quality of our products. 
Competitiveness is a mix of objective aspects, like infrastructures, networks, government policies and also the marketing strategies that you can learn in some specific training schools (Universities, masters…). But what I’d like to highlight is the importance of your mood. First of all, to be really competitive, you need to be confident and capable, of course.  This consideration can be resumed in an aphorism: “There are no facts, only state of minds” . Facts are determined by state of minds. You have to consider it when you elaborate strategies.

7)      How your job has changed over the years?
Our history, started in the 1960’s, has gone through different phases defined by an evolution in technology, especially in microelectronics and computer application. At the same time, global market evolved and new media communications started to appear (internet, multimedia, social networks…etc.). Our activity had to gain knowledge in order to  use new technologies and we had to organize our inner structure to manage with new international customers, without forgetting our main mission: the development of innovative products for niche markets.

8)      How do you imagine your business ten years from now?
Is there a million dollar prize for this question?
Joking aside, I think CDR should make an effort like the scientists who researched the laws to “order the chaos”. I mean that we will need to build a human and professional base able to face the challenges of the next decade, in terms of technology, but most of all we will need to work on our creativity to build mental and operating models for the development of products and markets. In some sense, we have to find the laws of a chaotic system.

9)      Some advice for young people starting careers?
In addition to the most predictable qualities, like professional qualification, determination, perseverance and a proactive attitude, I’d like to suggest something more: build your own “inner compass”, have your own value system in order to evaluate the proposals and the opportunities you will receive. Finally, be constantly active and proactive.


mercoledì 9 maggio 2012

Marakita, la mariquita con estilo

Marakita es una joven marca de Florencia, símbolo de una ciudad que continúa demostrando sus ganas de innovar e inventar: el nombre viene de la combinación del apellido de la creadora con el animalillo “mariquita” que en Italia es un símbolo de buena suerte. Su punto fuerte es la creación de artículos únicos y originales, nacidos de la unión de materiales brutos de la tradición toscana con mucha creatividad. Aquí hablamos con su creadora, Benedetta Maracchi.

1) ¿Qué es Marakita? ¿Podrías presentarnos tu empresa?
Marakita es una pequeña empresa artesana de complementos para mujer, hombre y niño nacida en 2009 de la fuerte mezcla entre pasión por la moda y apego a la tradición toscana.

2) ¿De dónde nació el estímulo para poner en marcha tu propia empresa?
Todo nació de un grande período de crisis personal y profesional que me llevò a reflexionar por largo tiempo y a poder crear lo que yo realmente quería.

3) ¿Cómo se ha modificado tu actividad durante los últimos años?
Ha mejorado en calidad y afectación, y también en su expansión en los mercados extranjeros y en su gama de productos.

4) ¿Cuáles son las mayores dificultades que encuentras en tu trabajo?
Las dificultades son a veces de carácter económico y de elecciones estratégicas.

5) ¿Y en cambio, cuáles son las mayores satisfacciones?
La satisfacción viene de la apreciación de mis clientes por los productos, de las ganas de sentirse especial, como propone Marakita.

6) ¿Has tenido la ocasión de disfrutar de algunas facilidades para el empresariado femenino?
Por el momento no, porque no tuve tiempo de documentarme.

7) Según tu opinión, ¿ qué le falta a Italia para que sea competitiva?
Una clase dirigente capaz y políticos auténticos.

8) ¿Dónde te ves dentro de diez anos? ¿Tienes proyectos futuros?
Confío en tener pronto mi propia tienda en Florencia, ampliar mi gama de productos y, quizás, abrir un negocio en el extranjero!

9) ¿Qué aconsejarías a los jóvenes que quieren trabajar en el campo de la moda?
Que sea el campo de la modo u otro, cuando se quiere montar un negocio propio es necesario ponerse reglas, tener mucha resistencia, estar abiertos a nuevos proyectos y tener en grande consideración los estímulos que vienen del exterior. Hay que ser tenaces y creer en tus propios sueños, incluso en los momentos difíciles.

A cappuccino dated 1870

A cappuccino dated 1870

One by one, it seems that the historical businesses in Florence are disappearing, due to the speculation that recently affected them and forced many of them to close. Just a few historical institutions resist and one of them is the Gran Caffè San Marco. Today we speak with its owner, Piero Zani.

The Gran Caffè San Marco is a historical institution of the city of Florence, would you like to tell us its history?
The Gran Caffè San Marco is a café that opened in 1870 under the name “Caffè Fanti” in honor of the General Manfredo Fanti, whose statue overlooks the piazza San Marco. It has always been a meeting place for students, professors, philosophers and artists: in the 1930’s you could have easily met some exponents of the literary school of the “Ermetismo” like Luzi, Bigongiari, Parronchi or Macrì there. In 1961 the café was restored and lost part of its charm, but you could still meet many artist and literates there. The current owners have had this place since 1985.

 Is there some particular episode of its history that you would like to share with us?
One day a Japanese couple arrived and asked for a pastry and a cappuccino, later they wanted me to take a picture of them in a precise spot of the restaurant…then they showed me a picture in a Japanese magazine and I noticed that it was reproducing the same scene I had to photograph. We were famous in Japan and we didn’t know it!

How your job has changed over the years?
Due to the fact that many offices moved away from the city center to the new zone of Novoli, (like the University, the Tribunal and some banks), we have less regular customers and more occasional tourists.

The economic crisis is quite a hot topic right now in Italy. How has it affected you?
Of course it has affected us. Our customers right now are only occasional tourists and we registered a drop in business of the 30%. We had to cut some expenses, most of all affecting our staff.

The historical Florence shops and bars have decreased a lot in these last years. What could be the reason?
A low interest from our government leaders who weren’t able to preserve the historical Florence businesses. They let minor businesses like Chinese jewelry shops or kebab restaurants emerge whilst ignoring the Florentine craftsmanship, admired and known all over the world, that started to disappear.

What major challenges and problems do you face most?
We are constantly pressed by iniquitous taxes, our field is not well promoted and tourists are not stimulated to come back here.

What aspect of your business gives you the greatest satisfaction?
To see our customers happy and satisfied and also to see them coming back with other people.

How is your relationship with the city of Florence? Would you give some advice to the Mayor?
As I already said, it is necessary to make an effective promotion through agencies abroad and give more services to the tourists. If we apply iniquitous taxes like the “tourist tax” or the “tax on the tourist coaches” (about 260,00 € a day), the travel agencies cannot send many tourist here, to the detriment of our businesses (hotels, bars, restaurants…etc.)

How do you imagine your business ten years from now?
If our government leaders won’t stand and try to transform the city, many beautiful projects, right now plagued by the Italian bureaucracy, will remain irresolute and we will find ourselves in a world of chaos.

Some advice for young people starting careers?
Always remember not to take anything for granted, but try to deserve it. The biggest satisfaction is to see the customer happy and satisfied. Our personal problems must never interfere with our job. Work, work, always work with a smile, time will repay you.