The Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce does more than just supply its members with statistics and investment data: it provides a customized matchmaking service that brings together the best ideas of the Italian and Thai business worlds.
And Angelo Cucchi was definitely helping to achieve the Chamber’s success. The TICC’s Executive Director came to Thailand in 1987 because his brother, Roberto, opened a branch of the family’s food processing and packaging company, Eufintrade, in Malaysia, and then decided he wanted to expand his activities in South-East Asia so he asked Angelo to come to Thailand and find a local partner for a joint-venture project here.
He was only supposed to stay in Thailand for a year or so and then return to Italy to help run the family business in Milan. But fate intervened and in 1990, the Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce asked him to stay and run the Chamber. So at the relatively young age of 25, Angelo joins the TICC and has been running it ever since. (The TICC, by the way, was started by co-Italian-Thai founder Giorgio Berlingieri in 1979.)
When Angelo took over the Chamber it only had a few members, there was no strong contact with either the Italian or Thai governments and very few large Italian companies were members.
But times have changed. The TICC now has 116 members, 70% of which are Thai. And today its members include some of Italy’s largest multinationals e.g. Fiat; Parmalat, the famous dairy products company; and Cagiva, the motorcycle manufacturer. And many of its Thai entrepreneurs are now doing business with major Italian firms like Pirelli, while other Thai companies, such as the Central Trading Company, are importing a large amount of Italian products.
The Chamber has accomplished this growth while remaining self sufficient depending on its funding only from its membership fees and the projects it carries out for the Italian enterprises (which are partially supported by the Italian government)
The TICC performs its very valuable matchmaking service by acting as a liaison between Italian and Thai entrepreneurs, linking up those with similar interests and similar goals, whether it is an Italian investor wanting to do business here, or a Thai wanting to do business in Italy.
The Chamber prides itself on its personal contact; it’s the Italian way, of course. It uses the well-established network of the Association of Italian Foreign Chambers of Commerce, which has 62 branches, and meets twice a year to help its members find and develop their businesses. The head office of the association is located in Rome, and meets with top leaders in the Italian government and the Italian entrepreneurs on a regular basis.
This is very important because the TICC knows right away if an Italian company is financially sound and if it conducts good business practices and can therefore advise potential Thai partners on the viability of future partnerships.
An example of how the TICC looks out for its Thai members would be last October the TICC took a large BoI delegation to Italy including the BoI Secretary-General, Chakramon Phasukvanich (now Secretary-General of NESDB), H.E. Chaturon Chaisang, who is now the Justice Minister, but then was with the PM’s Office; two Thai entrepreneurs who were experts in packaging and food processing and several other delegates from the Thai government.
The TICC took them to Parmalat’s and Barilla’s factories, two of the biggest food processing companies in Italy, and arranged meetings with the top officials of these companies, who explained in detail their logistic and exporting processes.
Then the TICC took them to Modena and arranged a roundtable meeting with several presidents of Italian clusters, which are significant for Thailand such as ceramics, textiles, and food. Clusters are groups of industries situated in certain areas specialized in certain products e.g. silk and textile processing in northern Milan, leather in Florence or similarly here in Thailand, say, jewelry in Kanchanaburi.
Mr. Cucchi elaborates: “The Italian economy is made up of these clusters: small and medium sized enterprises acting together in an association, developing certain products and making them the best they can be. These clusters formed by themselves without much government support, yet they have become very powerful and their products are now omnipresent throughout the world. And we want to make the Thais understand how and why these clusters operate and succeed so well in the world. Thais have indicated they want to follow the cluster idea and would like to learn more about the ceramics, textiles and jewelry industries.”
The group was then taken to Milan for another seminar confirming the strategic importance of investing in Thailand. In attendance, the TICC had representatives from Pirelli Cavi, Vittoria, Solarlens and Framec all of who had experience living and operating businesses in Thailand.
The TICC also cooperates with the Italian Embassy, the Italian Trade Commission, whose aim is to support the penetration of Italian companies into the Thai market, and Dante Alighieri (Italian- Thai Cultural Association), as it helps sponsor concerts and operas and events by ACRIT (the Italian Chefs Association in Thailand).
Also, every year the TICC plays a part in hosting a very big exhibition to showcase Italian food products and wine. Suitable suppliers, importers and distributors show up to display their wares at a major downtown hotel.
Fueling this event is the current boom of Italian restaurants in Thailand. There are now over 100 Italian restaurants in Thailand; approximately forty percent of which are in Bangkok. The rest are spread throughout Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Songkla and Koh Samui.
Even though he is not a culinary expert Mr. Cucchi suggests visiting these TICC members: Angelini’s, Duilio’s, Fino, Gianni, Grappino, La Gritta, L’Opera, Ma Be Ba, Pan Pan, Rossini’s, Spasso or Zanotti.
But Angelo says, “The variety is so large, you can find anything for any taste. If you are Thai and you want something spicy, you eat southern Italian cuisine. Remember, every town in Italy has its own special type of food so you can imagine how many different varieties of food Italy has.”
And what about that famous Italian Fashion: Armani, Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Versace, Zegna, the list just goes on and on. And if you don’t want knock-offs Angelo advises to shop in the name shops located in the major shopping centers like Emporium because they import from the real producers.
This year the TICC is also working on a special event in close cooperation with the Italian Embassy. Starting from May 21 st with a concert of the internationally well known group Solisti Veneti, and then fully commencing on June 2 nd, Italian National Day, the Chamber will sponsor six months of Italian activities in Thailand. These will include food festivals, commercial exhibitions, fashion shows, sports days, opera concerts, pianists and other musicians.
A large mission from a design school in Italy will also be coming to Thailand to show their skill and capacity. This is in cooperation with Rangsit University, which has an impressive faculty of Art & Design and its program director has worked in Italy and speaks fluent Italian. The event will be called Ciao Italy in Thailand 2002.
The TICC is also involved in community projects through Comunita’ Incontro, an organization run by Italian volunteers. From its office in Pathumthani, this enthusiastic group of Italian people fully devotes their time to helping poor abandoned children in Thailand.
The key to this Chamber is that Thais and Italians have a similar way of doing business: they both put a lot of emphasis on personal contact. Angelo Cucchi and the TICC’s Executive Board realize this and they foster it: the result a very personal and informed Chamber that optimizes its networking contacts for the benefits of all its members.
Tel: 02-253-9909Fax: 02-253-9869