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A ZAMPERLA JOYRIDE IN EVERY FUN PARK IN THE WORLD
Destined to entertain. Alberto Zamperla comes from a dynasty of carousel makers. Already in 1896 his great-grandfather had requested from the authorities the right to occupy public grounds with his merry-go-rounds. The turning point was when Antonio, father of the eponymous Vicenza based company (www.zamperla.it), after World War II, began building his own carousels with the help of local machine shops.
Born a small business with a local target range, the family company has today become an international group, with headquarters and/or related businesses across the world, from the United States to Russia, from China to the Philippines, from the United Arab Emirates to Korea. When did you decide to make the leap?
After the first positive experiences, my father decided to base himself in Vicenza to set up business manufacturing and selling carousels and amusement rides. The turning point happened in 1986, the year of my trip to the States. Following that experience – geared towards exploring a strategic area for our sector – we opened our first foreign branch. It was a crucial step because it allowed us to get into direct contact with the market, and to bypass the representatives we had engaged until then and who, obviously, kept to themselves all the strategic information about taste and market trends.
In concrete terms, what insights did your trip to the States give you? How did it influence your subsequent strategy?
I understood how different Americans are from Europeans: while for the European client, an amusement ride is an attraction, which must also satisfy a certain aesthetic taste, for the American client – more pragmatic – it is simply a tool, which must work well and need as little maintenance as possible.
In other words: the comparison with the United States forced your company to make an additional effort in terms of product quality?
I wouldn’t say so. Quality was already an established characteristic of our products. If anything, we were suffering - as Italians – from stereotypes about poor reliability: I have had American clients who wanted to visit our American branch before signing an order to make sure we had the parts. They feared our after-sales service would be lacking.
Italy, therefore, did not enjoy a particularly positive reputation in the US market.
Definitely. It was thanks to our work in the States that I truly understood the importance of an image and the strength of a country’s system. So little by little, I began reserving the largest exhibition spaces in all the trade fairs, capitalizing on the added value of a strong promotional presence. If in the mid Eighties we had to fight the myth of German reliability – then leading suppliers for North America – I can proudly say that now we have cut them out of the market, and have become uncontested leaders. I am not simply referring to the US: today there is not one amusement park in the world that doesn’t feature a ride made by Zamperla. We supply the most famous and prestigious clients: from Disney to MCA Universal Studios, from Warner Bros to Paramount.
The Zamperla Group, therefore, has become the leader in its niche because it took the risk of competing on the global stage.
Absolutely. In the past decades we learned a fundamental lesson: competitors must be fought on their turf. Recently, we entered the Chinese market aiming to break into a promising arena and produce at competitive costs - but also to control the local competitors and leave them less room to strengthen their position in the domestic market. We hope that what happened in Russia is replicated in China: a couple of years after we entered the market, the local manufacturers’ prices aligned themselves to ours. We forced them to position themselves on our medium to high range offer.
With an extremely high export quota (98% of your annual turnover, i.e. about 40 million euros), what is the role played by innovation in helping you continue as international market leaders?
Investing in R&D is essential. Even more so for a company like Antonio Zamperla Spa, which exports extremely advanced mechanical solutions. Research takes place inside the company: we make everything in house, from the planning and design to the artistic and decorative part. The latest solution we developed was for a ride in which the shuttles, shaped like motorcycles, reach a peak speed of 65kph after 30 meters, i.e. proportionally, a greater acceleration than a sports car.