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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

The Abu Dhabi business centre adding substance to style for Italian companies

Since launch in 2015, Abu Dhabi Italian Business Centre has helped six Italian companies establish themselves in the UAE, including one offering the first Italian-made burkini.

Francesco Favaro set up the Abu Dhabi Italian Business Centre to dispel myths about Italian businesses and let them grow in the UAE. Satish Kumar for The National
Francesco Favaro set up the Abu Dhabi Italian Business Centre to dispel myths about Italian businesses and let them grow in the UAE. Satish Kumar for The National

From organic food companies that sell ancient Sicilian grains to the first Italian-made burkini, businesses from the Mediterranean country are setting up in the UAE and prospering in numbers like never before.

Part of the reason for their success is the Abu Dhabi Italian Business Centre, which was set up to give companies a chance to expand beyond the difficult business environment at home.

Over the past decade, with a poor economy at home, Italian companies have increasingly looked to more prosperous markets, such as the UAE, to set up shop.

Mirella Morelli, founder of Elasmoda, which has been creating beachwear since 1993, is one such businesswoman who has entered the UAE market, and with a product that is sure to turn heads.

She is developing a “new, innovative” burkini specifically for the UAE, to pay respect to local customs concerning women’s fashion, as well as to add “more of the Made in Italy beauty”. The burkini is set to be embellished with Swarovski crystals.

“The idea of having our beachwear worn in the UAE was driven by our desire to grow as a business after we searched long for a country that would offer this opportunity,” Ms Morelli said.

“So when we came across the Italian Business Centre in Abu Dhabi, it was the perfect union for us.

“Italy is a beautiful country, but there are many things that prevent business growth in the political world, so by putting our products in another country we can add more value to our company.”

Francesco Favaro, the co-founder and director of the business centre, said many businesses in Italy are struggling but setting up in the UAE is difficult because some of the early Italian investors here did not earn trust.

“A lot of Italian companies came here and said, ‘we can do this and that’, but then they went back to Italy and they disappeared after they take the money,” said Mr Favaro.

“We want to build the market trust in Italian companies, that we are here, the office is here, they can come and see and touch the place.”

Since the centre started in 2015, it has provided six companies that offer different products with a structure, licence, sponsorship and also connections with local clients.

The lure of Italian companies, according to Mr Favaro, is “the capacity of Italians to pay attention to details like nobody else”.

“If I see a floor I can tell you if it has been done by an Italian, because there are not two tiles that are different from each other,” he said.

Another company to benefit from the UAE market and the centre is New Commerce Generation, which produces bread, pizza and biscotti from traditional Sicilian grains. The grains are said to enhances digestion because they contain about 50 per cent less glutathione when compared to modern grains.

“Our advantage in being in the UAE market is to expand - not only our business in a fully evolving market but also to make you appreciate more and more the Made in Italy brand,” said Marco Aristide, general manager of the company.

Similarly, Sevitex, an active producer of linen for renowned hotels, restaurants, cruise ships and sports clubs across Italy since 1969, said that by becoming a supplier in the UAE, they will have the chance to increase the visibility of their brand in Italy and in other countries.

“And to verify if our competitiveness and quality can also be appreciated in other countries,” said Gianluca Sevi, CEO of Sevitex.

“The first country we have chosen is the UAE - where hospitality is one of the most important fields that is in constant growth.”

After frequent visits to study the market in Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the past two years, Sevitex decided to join the centre because “for a company that is trying to open a new market in a new country, the knowledge and experience of ADIBC in the UAE has been of help to us,” said Mr Sevi.