Italian Atelier, founded in 2008 by Gianfranco Bianchi, is a leader in distributing the most prestigious luxury furniture brands in the Asia Pacific and represents over forty brands, such as Missoni Home or Armani/Casa.
Today we meet Gianfranco Bianchi, Italian Atelier Founder and President, to learn its success story in Asia, with particular attention to Cambodia, a country of high strategic value in which the company is taking its first steps.
What is the history of the Italian Atelier?
Italian Atelier is the embodiment of a dream I have had since childhood. So, in 2008, together with my brother, we decided to sell the sofas production family business in Quarrata in Tuscany and venture into an unknown new sector: sales in the world of luxury.
What is your definition of luxury?
Luxury is the uniqueness of the service. Whatever the product you offer, what differentiates it is the attitude, care, and attention to the customer, beyond the sales.
What is the Italian Atelier’s competitive advantage?
From the beginning, we wanted to differentiate ourselves. We are not just selling luxury furniture. Instead, we offer an outstanding quality service. We focus on having a deep knowledge of the markets we operate in, identifying customers’ needs, and creating high-quality networks that allow the brands we represent to grow and expand.
I have always been fascinated by Asian Culture and history. I decided to invest in this part of the world because Asia truly represents the future of the world economy! It is a growing market with plenty of opportunities, even amid the global pandemic.
What is your recipe for staying competitive in the Asian market?
First of all, a careful analysis of the various markets in the Region. We divided the Asia-Pacific into six areas. We regularly conduct in-depth marketing analysis, research, and reports on each. Based on those studies, we offer tailored product briefings. But, of course, each market is different, and for each country, we must create the right strategy to obtain the maximum benefit.
Secondly, we have developed a highly strategic network that allowed us to become a consolidated presence in various Asian countries. Presence on the territory is instrumental in winning the trust of your customer. For these reasons, in 2018, we opened the first office in Mumbai, the second office in Singapore, and a third in Shanghai in 2019. In June 2020, we opened the fourth office in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, covering Thailand and Cambodia. Lastly, in 2022 we opened an office in Jakarta.
We have exclusivity of the forty brands we represent. Our staff considers themselves both ambassadors and sales managers of the brands they work for.
Last but not least, we constantly train our management to ensure they offer a service at the higher standards that allow our customers to live the luxurious life they desire.
Who are your customers?
In a nutshell, those who live or work in the ultra-wealthy sector. Architects, interior designers, and construction companies of hotels or luxury homes; companies that distribute high-design furniture, individuals who seek exclusivity in their private properties.
We work closely with each of them, paying attention to all the process steps: from the first presentation, sharing the material, and presenting the design to the products’ order.
Why did you decide to look into Cambodia?
Because in Cambodia, the luxury sector combined with Made in Italy has real attractive growth potential for the high-end market.
What strategies did you put in place to enter the Cambodian market?
We did marketing research on the country, talked with key stakeholders, and developed a network. We are still in the initial stages of studying and understanding the local market and its potential customers. After understanding all these elements, we will be ready to move on to the sale. In my view, it is not essential to chase the sale but to position the brand correctly.
What is your advice to entrepreneurs wanting to start a business in Cambodia?
The world has changed, and traveling nowadays is complicated. Yet physical presence is still fundamental, so the best solution is to have an office or agent on site.
I would also suggest getting in touch with local structures, for example, ICBA; (as soon as possible ), visiting and networking to compare and understand the country’s potential and market.
How do you see your future in these difficult times?
You need to be able to see an opportunity in the crisis.
For example, I decided to do the opposite of many of my colleagues and invested in human resources to reassure customers and brands and develop new job opportunities.
I always say, “if you are on the pitch and play, you will have more ‘chances’ of scoring a goal than anyone sitting on the bench and watching.”