It is a leading e-commerce circuit in Italy created by an internet pioneer, with more than 4 mn registered users and over 1 mn orders for hi-tech, fashion and household products
Paolo Ainio is one of the few web pioneers without painful memories of the dot-com bubble at the turn of the century, as he came out of it practically unscathed. Indeed, it was at that time that he embarked on a new venture that has brought him renown and success. He has made his ideas into businesses on a number of occasions before selling them to start new ones. They have made it through the troubled times in the ailing market and now – eight years after the founding of his company Banzai and one year on from its listing in Borsa Italiana’s Star segment – he can justifiably claim to have built one of Italy’s most popular online marketplaces. Ainio has a 21.8% stake in Banzai and serves as the Executive Chairman of the group, which mainly focuses on e-commerce and vertical content. The Ceo is Pietro Scott Jovane, the former top man at Microsoft Italy and Rcs, who was appointed in November last year.
Ainio’s career has gone hand in hand with the development of the internet in Italy. «It seems like a lifetime ago that I got back from the United States and attempted to launch The City with Carlo Gualandri and some other friends. It was an experiment in digital interaction between companies and families along the lines of the early prototypes of interactive tv that were appearing in North America. In the end, little came of it because the idea was too innovative for a market where the web was still in an embryonic state, but the contacts that I made enabled me to contribute to the creation of Telecom Italia Net (which later became Tin.it) and to launch Matrix and the Virgilio portal», recalled Ainio. Anyone who is familiar with Italy’s online evolution will know that these are all milestones in the country’s internet scene. Ainio learned from his experience and realized that if you have a problem because your ideas are ahead of their time for your target market, the strategic move is to build a market for them.
As the slogan of his new company goes, «we work in the heart of digital change».With a team of 500 employees and contributors and a turnover that was up from € 185 mn in 2014 to approximately € 230 mn in 2015, Banzai has every right to call itself the number one Italian e-commerce circuit. In 2014, it had 4 mn registered users and it processed more than 1 mn orders. This produced revenues of € 164 mn, which marked an increase of 23% on the previous year. Through the ePrice (hi-tech) and SaldiPrivati (fashion and household goods) websites, Banzai offers not only traditional home delivery services but also the first ever Italian network of its kind, with 100 pick-up and payment points and more than 250 automatic lockers for 24-hour collection of the bought products. The company is also renowned for its pre- and after-sales service: it deals with 1,700 requests a day and 75% of the feedback after the initial contact is positive. All of this comes despite the fact that the spread of e-commerce is still rather limited in Italy at just 3%, compared to 8.7% in France, 9.4% in Germany and 14.9% in the United Kingdom. «After the dot-com collapse in the early 2000s, Italy got left behind compared to other developed countries and it has still not managed to close the gap. However, with the infrastructure for fibre optic connections finally being developed at a faster pace, a delivery service that is now up to the task and growing awareness that credit card payments are secure, in the coming years the substantial growth in electronic commerce will spread to Italy».
Ainio is also a big name in digital publishing. With a total of 3.5 mn unique visitors a day for all of the group’s websites, Banzai is the leading digital publisher in Italy. Through websites such as Pianeta Donna, Giallo Zafferano, Studenti.it, SoldiOnline and Il Post, the group provides users with reams of information products. It produces 800,000 pieces of original content a year, which is an exceptional amount not only on the Italian publishing scene but also on a global scale.