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Casoli: This is how to become number one
Rome - (Ign) - It's not easy to find an entrepreneur aged 43, who has been working in his company for 26 years and who in a quarter of a century has managed to help it grow from 300 to 2400 employees, with a turnover of now around ā¬400 million per year, while also becoming chairman of the Manufacturers' Association in the Marches region of Italy. Moreover, he was not producing luxury goods, but launching himself into a difficult market densely populated with competitors. This is the really unique story of Francesco Casoli, at the helm of the Elica group, the world's most important producer of cooker hoods. They hold around a third of the European market and achieve increases in turnover every year, sometimes even by as much as 20%, such as between 2003 and 2004. His business adventure began suddenly in 1978, when his father Ermanno, who had established the company in Fabriano, in the Marches, back in 1970, died suddenly and prematurely. Francesco found himself at the head of a company with 300 employees, and decided to learn the craft of business in the field, with excellent results. The company grew at a constantly fast rate, new production facilities were opened and many other companies already operating in the sector were taken over. They ended up becoming world leaders, with overall production of almost 5 million pieces per year, also with the brands Airforce, Fox and Jetair, as well as producing 16 million motors and electric/electronic components.
Mr Casoli, what are the ingredients of your success? Technological innovation? Design?
"Both, even if in two separate phases. In the 1980s and the first half of the 90s our main aim was to achieve a leading position with concrete results, offering well-developed products, which were reliable and could be sold on all markets. We invested a great deal in research and development. Then, once we had achieved excellent quality standards, we realised that to grow further we needed to develop design aspects, to combine technology and aesthetic considerations, to produce and market functional appliances, which were both efficient and attractive. Up until then cooker hoods had been a banal kitchen furnishing accessory, often built into the furniture, almost hidden. With the products made by the Elica group, cooker hoods became a furnishing element in their own right, and in certain cases a focal point of the kitchen design".
What commercial strategies did you adopt to achieve success on all the markets?
"It may seem strange, but in effect we followed an extremely careful strategy. Elica was set up above all to produce hoods designed for the leading groups in the electrical appliances and kitchen furnishings industry. We quietly found a space in the markets, characterising our brand above all at the top end of the range, which the major producers had not occupied".
And what about foreign markets?
"We adopted the same philosophy, above all approaching markets which had been neglected by the major groups, such as the United Kingdom. Then we moved on to the most promising new markets, such as Russia. And lastly we developed a presence throughout Europe and America, the Middle East and the Far East. In Japan we set up a joint venture with Fuji, to produce together a range of high quality products. We have begun to move onto the Chinese market, but in the future I think we will have to build alliances to develop local production facilities".
What challenges does the future hold?
"Moving outside hoods, and outside the kitchen, and using the skills and experience we have acquired to approach other sectors in the great world of furnishing, so that we can reach new and wider markets".
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