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The ultimate bathrooms are Made in Italy thanks to RAPSEL, where style meets innovation
Aldo Provini is the general manager of Rapsel , an Italian company created in the Seventies with the aim of translating the added values of Italian design and style to bathroom furnishings, offering a detail-oriented clientele solutions that are highly-innovative, original and of aesthetic quality. With courage, in the following decades the company was recognized as a trend-setting operator: as a result, its products increasingly became true cult items. However, efficiently competing in a highly competitive market has become, today, increasingly difficult. And it is also a matter of size.
Yours is a small company, with a turnover in the region of 10 million euros. Did the decision to operate in a niche, ‘SME-sized’ sector, allow you successfully confront the giants who operate in your sector?
Absolutely. Our products, which are highly specialized, allow us to remain in a niche sector. They are our true strength, which regenerates itself thanks to constant research and innovation: two concepts which have been since the start our design ‘credo’.
How important is the added value in terms of design which you are able to transfer to the customer? Is a stylistic approach the only guarantee sheltering Rapsel from competitors who have access to cheaper labour?
It is not simply a matter of style. Behind every product there’s a design, research, prototypes. Sometimes it’s a matter of years before we can launch a new product. These are complex paths which include the research of shapes, materials, technologies, and only the blending of all these components adds value to the aesthetic part of the product as a whole.
Rapsel has always characterised itself by the uniqueness of its solutions. It is not by chance that you were the first in the world to launch the glass sink, over 15 years ago. What proportion of your profits do you invest in R&D every year?
We invest about 7% per cent in R&D: a significant share, which demonstrates what I just highlighted in terms of R&D being the basis of our core business.
An efficient marketing of your products, I would consider, should also warrant the creation of synergies with a distribution network that is not simply affiliated to you and motivated to sell your products, but also adequately trained to communicate the added value of Rapsel’s bathroom solutions. How far are distributors involved in the business plan?
Our distributors are involved indirectly because it is also through them that we develop inputs to design and develop new products. Of course the process is a much more complex and special one for each product, which involves designers, technicians and the whole production chain.
Let’s talk about exports: what share of your profits comes from outside Italy? Is the internationalisation of the company a trait that has always been present or was it the evolution of a business which began to grow in its home market?
50% of our profits come from exports: they account therefore for about half of our turnover. Ours is and has always been an international vision. In the Seventies Rapsel appeared in the Italian market as a brave importer of Scandinavian design. Looking past Italy’s borders has always been in our DNA, whether it was to look for or offer new input.
Which countries do you most export to? And, which areas of the world do you anticipate having the most potential for the future?
Our main markets are, in order of size, Germany, United States, France, United Kingdom, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg). For the future, we see the greatest potential for development as being in Russia and obviously China.
The size of your company, I assume, makes any effort at internationalisation that much harder, in terms of moving plants to other, more cost-efficient countries. I wonder, however - if one considers the concept of «global sourcing» - if you manage to supply yourself with parts or semi-industrialised components abroad, in order to keep the brains of your design and marketing operations in Italy while at the same time achieving a more efficient production process.
Our entire manufacturing process takes place in Italy: this choice is linked to the high level of quality we wish to maintain.