Meet Gianluca Fiume, head of Piaggio Asia Pacific 2-Wheeler. When asked to explain (in his own words) what he does, Piaggio Asia’s first-in-command breaks it down to this: finding and nurturing the talents.
And the efforts he’s put into tending to the iconic scooter-maker’s business in Asia have certainly borne fruit. Since moving to Vietnam in April 2017 with a mandate to strengthen and consolidate the Group’s Asia operations, Gianluca has made a turnaround across all parameters. In 2019, the company achieved several milestones:
- Best year in terms of production
- Best year in business performance across key markets for Piaggio Asia Pacific
- Best Company to work for in Asia
With growing purchasing power triggering a demand for premium scooters in the region, all Vespa and Piaggio vehicles coming off the production facility in the Vinh Phuc industry park near Hanoi are shipped locally and to Asia Pacific markets. Leading, in sales volume, is Vietnam, trailed by Thailand, Indonesia and China.
Greeting us at the Piaggio Asia Pacific’s head office in Hanoi’s French quarter to be interviewed for our “How I Manage” series, the self-described citizen of the world talks about being in the “business of emotions”, explains where to look for energetic employees and why Piaggio Asia Pacific wants to be associated with the word “spotless”.
How do you engage with your customers?
The way we see it, riding a scooter is just an excuse to experience a range of emotions, so technically we’re in the industry of emotions. Being able to connect with consumers on that deep level is what elevates us above other two-wheeler manufacturers out there.
In the region with so many levels of maturity, Vietnam stands out both in market size and consumer sophistication. The Vietnamese are highly demanding from an emotional and functional point of view.
In the past three years we’ve strengthened our line-up as well as focusing on delighting, entertaining and wowing our customers to “over-exceed” their expectations, including the launch of some very successful limited edition series that made customers salivate. Novelty products inspired by heritage models from our archives, like the racing-themed Vespa Racing Sixties, generate a lot of buzz but bumper sales is not why we do it. We want to trigger an emotional response. As a Vespa lover, being able to ‘touch’ the brand’s history is priceless.
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To unlock these emotions, what do you do as a leader?
You start with evoking emotions in your own people. As a brand ambassador my job is to evangelize our ASEAN strategy so that all stakeholders are aligned. We’re on this beautiful journey together and it’s a long and arduous but exciting one. Piaggio’s strategy in Asia is to become 'spotless' at every touch point. How do we get there? By inspiring and motivating our people in order to let them unlock their encoded talent so that they, in turn, can convey the essentials of our strategy in the most distinguished way.
What is Piaggio corporate culture like?
Piaggio Group is a leading 2-wheeler manufacturer with a basket of iconic and emotional brands. Our culture encourages individuals to express themselves and shine in their own way regardless of their personalities or age.
The people characterize the DNA of the company. And under the Piaggio umbrella we aim to bring together, in the most efficient way, people who like to engage with what we represent: design, beauty, freedom, passion, color, Italian-made.
I am always looking for passionate, energetic people as it’s important to be surrounded by positive energy to be successful. Usually it’s something you are born with but in the right environment the can-do attitude can be cultivated. As a leader, I “cultivate” and “fertilize” the talents, it is not a job, it is a mission. It takes a lot, but the return is much more. I’m a strong believer that the people have the power.
You joined Piaggio Asia Pacific after years in executive roles with the Group in Europe. What is it like to be managing a quintessentially European brand in Asia?
13 years ago, our Chairman chose Vietnam as the hub for all Asian markets, making Piaggio a trend-setter from a business model point of view.
Piaggio as the European Leading Manufacturer throughout these ten years (13 years) has successfully pioneered the Vietnamese market in many ways: we opened the Premium market, we were the first to launch the ABS (Anti-lock braking system). We launched the most advanced solutions from a safety and eco-friendly point of view. We have educated the Vietnamese market in a more sophisticated riding experience.
I believe it’s because with our bold Italian-designed vehicles we are able to touch Vietnam’s freedom-loving spirit. The forward momentum we are seeing in Asia today is formidable and consumers here are riding this wave with confidence. I like to think that our products reflect that.
What about the electric vehicles market?
We launched Vespa Elettrica two years ago as part of our commitment to keep investing in green technology. Visually, it’s the iconic Vespa model in an electric version. The market here is very price-driven, with sustainability concerns taking the back seat for the moment. The region must be accultured.