The Ferretti Group has seen all highs and lows that the seas have thrown on it. The next battle? Creating a yachting culture in India - a country which already has quite a number of mature yacht consumers - says Giuseppe Zecchin
By: Salman Z. Bukhari
Posted on: April 10, 2011
The Taj Mahal Palace lobby is buzzing with activity, people rushing in and out with purpose, perched on the lounge sofas speaking in muted tones hurriedly, and the air is thick with excitement. It doesn’t take long to figure out what the hullabaloo is about. A luxury conference underway at the venue brought out the Pradas and Guccis from inside the closets right under the shimmering lights of the hotel.
In midst of the hustle, we find a quite space in the business centre facing the iconic Gateway of India and the great Arabian Sea. Seated in the mahogany chair is the man we have come to meet. It is an important day for the 34 year old Asia Pacific Head of Italian Yacht giant Ferretti Group – Mr Giuseppe Zecchin. While his boss, Salvatore Basile, the CEO of the group, was announcing the launch of the state-of- the-art Riva Yachts at the forum, Zecchin stepped in to share with us the news.
In his charmingly thick Italian accent, he calls the Riva ‘a Die-o-mond’ in the crown of the Ferretti Group whose portfolio boasts of eight more brands of nautical marvels. “Its heritage, construction and design is second to none,” he says as he ascertains that the Indian market is now mature enough to embrace this prized gem.
Despite India’s quick luxury ascent, the country has been largely indifferent towards the yacht sector. We peer out of the window to see a handful of vessels bobbing around in the unclean waters and that there is no infrastructure to speak of except for a few piers in a dismal condition. This is not something that perturbs our host. He agrees that the boating culture is not really there in this country, but that is soon changing. His group, along with their trusted Indian partners - Marine Solutions, has taken it upon themselves to work with local governments. Mr Zecchin is certain that the success and growth of the category will not only be beneficial to his company and its exclusive clients, but also have a larger benefit for the entire economy. He quickly adds the long list of subsidiary businesses like ship construction, repairs, and restaurants, and jobs for qualified captains and crews, which can mushroom if yachting takes off. It is a win-win situation for everyone, what is required is for the momentum to pick up. He is, in fact, so optimistic about the future of yachting in the country that it becomes a bit contagious!
We probe him about why would someone want to own a yacht? It’s a huge long-term investment, requires maintenance and is inaccessible in monsoons. Ferretti’s growing client base and survival in the turbulent seas of recession worldwide and in India tell us the man has immense faith in his products. Mr Zecchin admits that sales did drop during those years, however, the nautical category is very peculiar unlike any other in the luxury business. “It’s not transactional, but a more one-to-one connection where a sale results in the beginning of a long lasting friendship based on support and dedication,” he explains.
The company entered the Indian seas with the acclaimed Feretti Yachts in 2000 and since then has added the super-fast Pershing and is now setting sail the legendary Riva in 2011. The future will see them upgrade their offerings to super-luxury yachts very soon.
For Feretti, starting an Indian operation by themselves and heavy marketing activities wouldn’t have resulted in a successful run like it enjoys today. Mr Zecchin is grateful to find the right partners in Marine Solutions who have been in the Indian marine industry for a while. Hence they come with greater insights into the marketplace and boast of a rich muster of current and potential clients.
The Indian client for this Italian company is the 40 to 55 year old entrepreneur, well-educated and widely travelled, who primarily wants to enjoy a great lifestyle. Their price sensitivity and highly demanding trait is a positive sign, says the Asia Pacific Head, because they spend wisely after conducting extensive research and finally end up selecting a Feretti. When asked to differentiate between the other Asian and the Indian client, Mr Zecchin smiles, measures his words and explains how the Chinese customer insists on owning the exact replica of the yacht he sees in the brochure while the Indian wants to personalize and add his own touch to the yacht. For some it maybe the colours while others customize the interiors. Feretti has done extensive modifications like adding gymnasiums, studios and even a dog cabin to their yachts for their customers! (If only PETA and the sailing mutt could hear the audible gasp that was recorded on my dictaphone)
Innovation is the only constant in this company, which has been afloat since 1968. Their Advanced Yacht Technology Department is forever ticking in search of the next technological breakthrough. The founder, Mr Norberto Feretti, champions the cause, leading big innovations in the category. The big windows on luxury yachts, which replaced the smaller pigeon holes of the past, is one of his many visions which has eventually changed the way the industry looks at the boats or outside them.
In the past few years, the Ferretti range has become lighter, gives better performance, sports in-built motion control, provides indulgent comforts on board, and has advanced electronic systems for navigation and entertainment. Mr Zecchin confesses that they just can’t stop for they want to keep getting better at improving the overall experience.
“The first Feretti to arrive in India was for Mr. Lakshmi Mittal,” says Ms Anju Dutta of Marine Solutions, as she fondly remembers her high profile client - an otherwise tough businessman constantly smiling on his boat. “It is a different environment, enjoying time out with their friends and family out at the sea,” adds Mr Zecchin “It’s a privilege to see our clients unguarded and know that our yachts can provide them the much-needed relief and relaxation.” As the interview winds up, Mr Zecchin excuses himself to meet his new client. He is on a mission we notice, to share the joy of yachts and sailing on the high seas.
Ms. Dutta escorts us into a speedboat that will take us to ‘Isola’, a marina stationed in middle of the ocean complete with a functional bar, meeting area and facilities to hold parties and other events. As we tentatively climb atop this oasis created for luxury yacht owners, we glance around only to be arrested by the marvellous view of the bustling Mumbai coastline on one side and the never-ending expanse of blue ocean on the other. The breeze is clean and the silence brings back to mind Giuseppe Zecchin’s take on luxury, which he thinks is exclusive, unique, and something only a privileged few can enjoy. Just then a glossy Feretti yacht zooms past. Perched on its sun deck is a Sangria-sipping lady with an ‘I–am-Monaco-Rich-Tan’. She raises her glass as if to tell us “Join the club”. With so much beauty and decadence, it’s not difficult to get used to this life!
We regret to announce that Mr. Salvatore Basile, CEO of the Ferretti Group, passed away a couple of days after this interview on March 27, 2011 in Mumbai, a city the Ferretti Group considered their second home. LuxuryFacts expresses its deepest condolences to his family, friends and everyone at Ferretti.