Bft is an Italian company with an international reach, leader in the automation sector. Thanks to its customer-oriented approach and high-quality products, the company has consolidated its position in over 120 countries, building loyal relationships with distributors and customers.
What is the history of Bft?
Bft Group was founded in 1981 and initially focused exclusively on residential access management. Over the years, thanks to strong innovation and intuition, it widened its range of solutions to industrial and urban markets.
The company was structured into two business units supported by a widespread distribution network consisting of 20 commercial branches located across the world.
In 2004, the Vicenza-based company became part of the SOMFY Group, a French multinational, while in 2006 and 2008 the companies Sacs and O&O, were acquired that specialised in parking systems, barriers, bollards, and anti-terrorism.
For someone not in the industry, can you give us some examples of “automation” products?
Automation products use technology to manage certain processes without the need for human intervention.
As a company, we do not only offer residential solutions but also for urban use, such as products that can be seen in cities like automatic barriers, parking, and transit bollards, anti-terrorism bollards, and parking systems.
All the solutions we offer aim to improve and simplify processes through the use of technology that is increasingly reliable, safe, and precise.
How did you evolve from being an Italian company to an international?
In the 90s there was a desire to expand, the company began to mark foreign markets, opening their first branch in Germany in 2002 and then in other non-European countries.
Since then we have been present in Asia, initially through an agent who began selling our products in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Thailand, and now we sell directly from Italy in more than 15 Asian countries.
As a company operating worldwide, how is your sales network distributed?
Our network at the international level is divided between subsidiaries and direct distributors. Today Bft has a global distribution network consisting of over 20 commercial branches and more than 500 distributors across the world.
What motivated you to invest in Cambodia?
There was a desire to find customers in new countries, and Cambodia was definitely among those we wanted to invest in. The partnership with our current distributor here was developed thanks to ICBA President, Aurelio Flacco.
What are the drivers behind Bft’s success here?
In Cambodia, I think Bft ‘s strength is that we were among the first to sell gate automation directly from Italy.
Our company also strives to maintain high quality, aiming to promote the economic and social development of the areas in which it invests. Part of our success is also due to our customers’ services and the ability to build solid relationships around the world.
What is the operating model for sales and distribution of your products here?
In Cambodia, we operate through a direct reseller who manages our product range and has a small showroom. Our distributor installs our products directly or through contractors and also redistributes to small retailers around the country.
What are the challenges and opportunities encountered?
The most important challenge is concerned with the competition with Chinese products, an important presence in the area and our sector.
As far as opportunities are concerned, Cambodia is a growing country, where a lot of construction is underway so our products sell well in this context. Additionally, Italian made is respected so people trust us and our products, recognising our high quality.
What are the fundamental aspects to focus on when developing a win-win relationship between distributor, final customer, and BFT?
Bft believes in developing relationships in the local area. It is essential to understand every aspect: from the culture to the economy to find a distributor who believes in the brand and who remotely can maintain high company expectations and act as a spokesperson for our values.
Another fundamental aspect for Bft is to maintain a loyal relationship with the distributor who then shares it with his customers. For this reason, we support their every step: in addition to offering cutting-edge solutions, we offer customer training courses, help during installation, and after-sales support. To install and sell our products correctly it is essential to have the product knowledge and technical experience to provide the customer with a complete service.
What are your leading products in the Cambodian market?
Our leading products in Cambodia are automation systems for residential sliding gates and swing gates and commercial automatic doors, road barriers, and traffic bollards.
What added value do your products have compared to your competitors?
360° assistance is certainly the most important aspect that we share with our distributors, in particular the after-sales service. Knowing how to create valuable relationships with our distributors and customers is a characteristic of Bft. We don’t simply want to sell products, but rather understand the needs of the market to pursue growth, together with our distributors.
Italian products, in general, compared to those produced in other countries are of better quality, more reliable. but also more expensive.
The Bft brand has always been seen as a professional brand able to differentiate itself from the competition thanks also to strong attention to design that makes it unique and easily recognisable.
Finally, thanks to U-Link, a technological platform patented in 2011, Bft products can communicate with each other, creating an interconnected ecosystem that allows our installers to remotely manage our products and see the operating parameters in real-time, greatly facilitating service operations.
How do you deal with the problem of counterfeited products?
Unfortunately, this is a problem, for example, radio controls are among the most counterfeited products and are often sold through unofficial channels at lower prices. However, our distributors know the product, so actively inform customers about the risks of using counterfeit products and advise Bft to take necessary action to limit counterfeiting.
Have you been impacted by the pandemic?
Our business model has not changed much because the demand for our products in Cambodia is growing and prospects are good.
Certainly, our way of working has changed: we work a lot in digital and we have developed a new way of communicating with the market through online training courses open to distributors and customers.
Finally, what advice would you give to an Italian entrepreneur or company that would like to invest in Cambodia?
Each country has its characteristics so it is important to visit the country before starting a business in Cambodia, it is also essential to have a contact on-site to be advised and directed in the best way.