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Chamber hosts its 9th Business Awards

This year sees an eclectic crop of firms ranging from a luxury lifestyle group to a supplier of cutting-edge tech solutions.

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Elettronica's Gianluca Trezza, director, business development for the Asia-Pacific and general manager of the Singapore branch, says that the firm keeps a "startup" mindset, and is unbiased towards new things - being poised for changes.

A LANDMARK event of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (ICCS) in its packed calendar of activities is the annual Business Awards, which were presented this year for the ninth time. At this year's event held on Sept 18th at The Clifford Pier - The Fullerton Bay Hotel, four leading Italian and Singaporean businesses were recognised for their outstanding achievements.

Como Holdings is the winner of the Best Singaporean Investor to Italy. The winner of the Best Italian MNC in Singapore award this year is Pirelli. The Best Italian MNC in Singapore - Innovation is Elettronica. And the award for the Best Italian SME in Singapore went to VIC.

Como Holdings

Olivier Jolivet, chief executive officer of Como Holdings, shares with The Business Times: "We feel honoured to have been chosen for this sought-after award, which emphasises our investment ambitions in Italy. Como Holdings has always been a niche leader in the luxury industry. We constantly strive to innovate and to reinvent ourselves to meet today's consumer demands, whilst staying true to our philosophy."

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Como Holdings is a niche investor with a focus on luxury and innovation. It is supporting primarily but not exclusively Como hotels and resorts with its expansion strategy, among other projects.

"We are living in a world full of opportunities. For us, it is important to find the ones that are right for the brands we support. Like many other businesses, it is crucial to recruit and retain the best talents in the industry. Only with a strong team will we be able to reach our future goals," says Mr Jolivet.

Como Holdings started investing in Italy last year as it saw a lot of potential in the "Mediterranean Golden Arch". This term refers to that part of the Mediterranean where Florence, Pisa, Monaco, etc, are located in what appears to be an arch on the map.

Lifestyle investments in that region have always been somewhat unique, with relatively low price assets and good financing opportunities.

Asked about how the experience has panned out, investing in Italy, Mr Jolivet says: "It has been an enjoyable experience so far and we look forward to continue a mutually beneficial relationship. We are working on a few other opportunities in the region but, unfortunately, it's too early to share concrete plans at this point. We look forward to developing some of the best lifestyle resorts in Italy."

Pirelli is Best Italian MNC in Singapore

Pirelli Asia Pte Ltd's managing director for South-east Asia Adrian Thio feels very honoured to receive the Best Italian MNC in Singapore award amid many good Italian MNCs here.

"It is a recognition of Pirelli Asia's business presence in Singapore. I believe a few elements led to us being chosen for this award. Pirelli is well-known on a global level as an icon of technology and excellence, and this enables Pirelli to innovate, attract and cultivate talent, improve efficiency and interact with other industries," says Mr Thio.

"We are also transparent in the subjects of finance, taxation and corporate governance, as well as our social and environmental impact. In fact, Pirelli was recently awarded the 2018 Gold Class Sustainability Award on a global level recently and we are also the world leader in the Sustainability in Auto Components sector on the Dow Jones World and Europe indices," he adds.

Pirelli is currently focusing on three areas. The first one is future mobility. It is doing research for greater safety and more controlled driving performance that matches the world's advancing technology. Secondly, it is ensuring that natural rubber, one of the main raw materials for its tyres, remains available without jeopardising the future of the forests. Lastly, Pirelli is bringing the above two areas together by maintaining the high performances of its products while reducing the environmental impact.

"The benefits are yet to be seen at the moment as they are a long-term strategy and approach but we are on the right track especially concerning future mobility and environmental sustainability," says Mr Thio.

Pirelli is one of the leading tyre manufacturers and connected service providers as well as the only entity entirely active in the consumer market which includes car, motorcycle and bicycle tyres. It is a purely consumer tyre company, especially focused on the high value tyre market and consistently committed to developing innovative products.

Mr Thio says Pirelli Asia selected Singapore as its South-east Asia regional headquarters in 1995. Singapore was chosen due to its geographical advantage as well as political and economic stability and to provide operational support to the importers and dealers in the Asean region.

Elettronica is tops for Innovation

Winning the Best Italian MNC in Singapore - Innovation award is a big achievement for aerospace and defence company Elettronica, as it started doing business here just four years ago.

"We opened a representative office in 2014, following the decision of our top management to expand in the Asia-Pacific, where an increasing interest and requirement for our solutions had been foreseen. Singapore was the obvious choice for many different reasons, starting from the very DNA of this country where technology and innovation play an important role in all aspects of society - a perfect match with our core values," says Gianluca Trezza, director, business development for the Asia-Pacific and general manager of the Singapore branch.

"The business-friendly environment, the first-class infrastructure and the favourable geographic position at the centre of the region did the rest. After four years now, we can definitely say that it was the right decision and, in fact, we have recently converted the rep office to a branch."

Asked about the importance of innovation for Elettronica, Mr Trezza replies: "Innovation is the very foundation of our business. In the defence industry, it is all about providing our customers with the technological superiority they need to ensure safety and peace to their nations, through the implementation of effective deterrence. "We are ultimately responsible for ensuring that, by investing much of our revenues in R&D and, more important, by always keeping a "startup" mindset, unbiased towards new things and positively prone to changes. Quoting my colleague Daniela Pistoia, Elettronica's chief scientist: 'Future is what we do every day'."

Elettronica was founded in Rome in 1951 and since its inception has always been a designer and manufacturer of advanced electronic and cyber-solutions, applied in military, homeland security and intelligence operations. The field it operates in is commonly known as "Electronic Warfare" and represents the technological forefront as well as the most sensitive niche within the defence industry.

Today, its systems are employed by governmental agencies and armed forces around the world and the company serves them through a network of subsidiaries, branches and representative offices located in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Mr Trezza says that Elettronica is still relatively small - 700-strong and family managed - but it competes every day in an arena populated by giant and super-diversified conglomerates. "Despite that, we've continuously succeeded for almost 70 years now, keeping our identity and values intact and positioning ourselves among the top five companies in our sector."

VIC is best Italian SME in Singapore

VIC, a key player in the market of the cargo quantity and quality inspections of goods, bagged the Best Italian SME in Singapore award this year. It offers real-time services with its unique, self-designed and developed mobile applications, allowing its customer to check inspection details, track the position and the conditions of the goods, and the whole supply chain by accessing its online system from anywhere on the globe. The company's core business is the cargo inspection of raw materials, fertilisers, agricultural and steel final products.

Alessio Bisutti, president of VIC Inspection Services Holding tells The Business Times: "We opened the company in Singapore in 2015 because it is the neuralgic and strategic centre of business in Asia, where the most important companies of the world are based. We wanted to be close to where things happen and this is a rule we are following since the beginning of VIC - being there where the decisions are being taken and where we can be close to our customers.

So, like we do in Dubai for the Middle East, we wanted to do the same in Asia. The option was only one - Singapore," Being based in Singapore allows the company to maintain a good flow of commercial relations with all its customers based in the country, and it provides inspection services to them. "Being a service company, means that you have to be close to your customers and be able to supply a solution when they need it, so what's what we do here," shares Mr Bisutti.

Since VIC started doing business in Singapore, its turnover has been doubling every year. It hopes to do it for the next year as well, as it gets ready for a new system of inspections performed by robots.

Mr Bisutti says that he is setting up a new company in Japan where, thanks to the company's innovative technology, it has started to work with the biggest mills and traders. "The VIC Group gained more commercial credibility because everybody is aware that the Japanese market is a very complicated one and which is very difficult to enter, particularly for the non-Japanese companies. And as for expanding the services, we are working via our IT company on developing the 'VIC robot inspection'. This is a system that will allow us to perform inspections in an automated way," he adds.