There is a jewel of entrepreneurship in Italy that does not produce anything, even though it sells footwear and clothing all over the world. A company capable of revitalizing historic brands without investing a euro in fabrics, machinery and warehouses.
Welcome to the world of BasicNet, a listed company specialized in producing the intangible: ideas, style, communication but above all what in jargon they call marketplace, an IT platform that allows licensees to manufacture and distribute brands such as Superga, Kappa, K -Way and Sebago, which BasicNet has relaunched.
“Our platform is the real goose that lays the golden eggs”, assures Gianni Crespi, CEO of the company since 2016. “It is no coincidence that our mechanism for relaunching failed brands continues to work”.
In the first half of 2018, the company reached close to 400 million euros in aggregate sales, with + 87% of net profit, at 6.5 million, and + 88.5% of net operating margin, at 10.1 million. .
BasicNet is the 3.0 business prototype: since it was created in 1995, it invests around 4 million euros in technology every year. The headquarters are in Turin, but it could be in Silicon Valley. There are very few t-shirts, shoes and anoraks in the headquarters. Not to mention the workers. In return there are 70 programmers, 100 product designers and 100 communication experts.
“We put style, marketing and marketplace management on proprietary software. The rest is up to the licensees ”, explains Crespi.
Basically, every year BasicNet creates a menu of templates, leaving licensees free to decide what to produce and how to distribute it. All through transactions that can only take place on the corporate platform.
“The dance is guided by the commercial licensee who decides what to buy and at what price, by publishing a request on the platform that opens a sort of auction among producers. BasicNet has only the role of guarantor ”.
The company guarantees quality by sending inspectors around who evaluate the samples, and distributing serial codes that certify the authenticity of the product. But the best insurance is given by the reviews posted on the platform by local entrepreneurs, just like it happens on Airbnb or Amazon. Does a distributor pay late? Does a manufacturer deliver faulty goods? A couple of negative comments are enough to be excluded from the game.
This system, now almost taken for granted, was conceived by the founder of BasicNet, Marco Boglione, well before the idea of peer-to-peer reviews entered the common imagination thanks to sites such as Tripadvisor or E-bay.
The entrepreneur has always been fascinated by disruptive ideas. It is no coincidence that his company was born from the ashes of Maglificio Calzificio Torinese which, under the leadership of the former owner Maurizio Vitale, in the 1970s had created revolutionary brands such as Robe di Kappa and Jesus Jeans. Legend has it that the slogan “Blue jeans, blue jesus”, which has remained legendary in the annals of Italian advertising, came from a competition of ideas organized by Vitale in a high school in Turin to speak directly to young people, without going through advertising agencies.
After the untimely death of Vitale, Boglione takes over the brands and, to make the most of the fame of the past, creates a network that connects producers and distributors all over the world, offering them the opportunity to develop brands independently .
The system works particularly well to relaunch names that, before going bankrupt, had strong personalities and international fame. This is because the network allows it to be instantly global, with entrepreneurs spread across over 120 countries. And it is very scalable: it allows small entrepreneurs to test the markets, queuing up with orders from larger producers to buy few goods at wholesale prices.
“Local entrepreneurs are the best sales force there is. A salary commercial director will never be as motivated as the entrepreneur who has invested his money “, emphasizes Crespi.
The CEO of BasicNet firmly believes in the company model: “It is a winner for everyone: it reduces our investment risks and offers licensees the opportunity to earn more. About two thirds of the added value of the goods remains with the producer and one third goes to BasicNet ”.
According to Crespi, the mechanism devised by Boglione could also work for other products. And, without going into details, he anticipates that in the future it could be made available to third parties.
“We are considering whether to open our marketplace to brands that are not ours. The basic idea is the same: to systematize entrepreneurial forces, making them dialogue in a free and transparent way to generate benefits for everyone, regardless of the volumes that each one brings “.