Italy: Internationalisation Of Small To Medium Sized Businesses In An Economic Crisis

Terms such as internationalisation, transnational and global are often excessively used in books, the media and the Internet. They are often capable of causing confusion to those who have not included it at least once in the syntax of its own business structure.

A recent report by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development concerning the state of the Italian economy in terms of trade with foreign countries, clearly showed the economic downturn affected all productive sectors and also had an impact on consumer confidence dropping by 10.4% from the previous year. While exports have shown a steady growth with the success of 'made in Italy' products on the international markets, the information that emerged regarding imports clearly showed a decline in the 2012 economic downturn that affected all productive sectors.

In comparison to Europe, it is clear that there has also been a sharp increase in data compared to 2011 related to trade with new European countries, with a variation of 11.5% in exports and 9.6% in imports.

This data reflects the same phenomenon of opening towards the markets outside Europe with a constant and growing trend. The leading country in this trend is Germany which over the analysed period exported goods and services for a value of 992.3 billion Euros, while Italy has still recorded a growth with 325.6 billion Euros. Spain, Greece and Portugal saw a decrease in imported goods during 2012 at the same time as Italy which saw a drop of 5.5%. The likelihood of this is due to the decreasing purchase power and hold off from investment. Some countries tend to export more than what they import and a result of this allows non European countries to buy affordable prices while we pay more for theirs and import them less.

With reference to goods, Italian exports have seen a significant increase in October of 2012 of 8.6%, while the imports decreased to 3.2%. Looking at Italy compared to other industrial countries, the data confirms the health of our 'made in Italy' products and therefore the strength of our companies to react to the effects of the international crisis. In 2012, the Italian exports of goods and services amounted to 6.7%, with a higher position than France that registers 5.3% and United Kingdom with 4.6%. Germany registers 7.8%, which owes its success to export of technology in the favor of the emerging countries, particularly China. It is "the best result ever reached by Italy", as stated by a report from Coldiretti. The report on the Italian exportation of 'made in Italy' products such as traditional food products, with a stable percentage of exportation towards the European countries and particularly Germany (+5%), France (+9%) and the United Kingdom (+3%), for a total increase of 6% in the European Union.

Despite this, the emerging countries represent the real opportunity: 10% increase in exports, with peaks prominent as for Russia and China, where the export of wine registers percentage of 44% and 25%.

Alongside the traditional trend we find surprises such as a boom in exports of 19% of Italian beer to the UK and 20% rise with cheese exports to France. The growth in the exportation of these manufactured Italian products shows more value than meets the eye; especially given the exports go to countries notorious for the exportation of their own beer and cheese that also are cutting back on the imports of foreign products.

It is true that the 'made in Italy' products are not only a cultural identity factor felt by the majority of Italians but it is also seen as an opportunity for the economic recovery from the crisis. An increase in exports means an increase of production, investment, and also the flourishing of professions and services related to it.

The employer who decides to face this project needs to decide a solid strategy. This is more so for small to medium sized Italian companies who intend to extend their services beyond the national borders. Without the necessary experience in place, it can be a great risk for the entrepreneur and their business.

A report carried out by Unicredit on a small number of companies looking to engage in internationalisation, has shown how important the aspect of logistics and technical and psychological support are as they face an unknown market.

Guidance should be offered to these small and medium-sized enterprises which could easily come from banks, trade associations and professionals from mere participation in trade fairs abroad, to the search of financial partners or to support the evaluation of business opportunities and their respective counterparts. Any decision concerning foreign markets is thus a strategic one to make and requires careful and expert preliminary study on all the external and internal factors.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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