Kim Hollamby speaks with Elena Ratti, marketing and communication coordinator of Italian stabiliser manufacturer Smartgyro, about her career and the advantages of working in an innovative company with a high ratio of younger employees.
What attracted you to working in the marine industry?
To be honest, it wasn't love at first sight! I was born and grew up in La Spezia, Italy. The maritime sector lies at the core of our seaside city, but I decided upon a different path. I moved to study and then work elsewhere, mainly in Milan but also abroad where I gained a lot of different experiences. The intention was to study languages to be a translator, but I soon realised it was not my path and in the meantime, I fell in love with the psychological aspects behind communication and marketing strategies and decided to dedicate my career to this.
I first worked in fashion e-commerce and furniture design. Using this experience and the skills acquired I then decided it would be good to participate in the growth of the nautical sector in my home city and I returned there. That led me to joining Smartgyro where I have discovered the marine industry and learned a lot about the many different activities within it.
Tell us about your company
Smartgyro commenced in 2014 when four friends combined a good idea with a healthy dose of determination. The Smartgyro founders were engineers and managers with more than 30 years of experience in the military and commercial industry, confident that the marine stabilisation market was destined to grow and that they could create a new competitive and innovative product.
By 2018, the success of Smartgyro was getting noticed globally and an offer was received by the international marine technology company Yanmar, resulting in negotiations which were concluded in 2019 when Yanmar was announced as strategic partner. Smartgyro is now part of Yanmar Recreational Marine Business Unit and joined its family that include VETUS, Maxwell and Flexofold.
While many operations and businesses had to pause during the Covid, it did not stop Smartgyro continuing to grow. Instead, the time was used to allow the team to focus on the improvement and development of new models, establishing the Smartgyro vision and global growth plans.
I was among the first employees of the company in 2021 when Smartgyro was ready to launch and commence presenting its new brand image and growing range of stabilisers at boat shows. In the two years since we have grown from five to 20 employees and developed the product into a range of models.
Significantly many of our employees are aged under 30 – 56 per cent of the total against the 12 per cent that is typical of industries like ours in Italy. Smartgyro believes in young talent and helps them to grow. Many of the people in our production area joined us after studying their trades. They are super skilled and hungry to learn more.
I’m still learning a lot and have the advantage of working with Sander Gesink, the marketing director of VETUS, Maxwell, Flexofold, and Smartgyro, who took that role after serving as global marketing director for Yanmar.
What are the advantages to Smartgyro of having such a relatively youthful employee base?
The difference is in ideas and freshness. You might think freshly graduated young people with no experience have nothing to give in terms of improving the company because you need to train them and dedicate time to their growth. But this investment in time pays off. In our research and development area there are young engineers with fresh ideas, new approaches and modern competencies.
Software is changing all the time and the things you can do with a computer are insane. You might think young people scrolling on their phones are checking their social channels but often they are learning from their networks and by researching online resources. They care about the company and are inspired by other brands and initiatives. If a company is open to the suggestions, advice, and ideas of young people it can really help the company to grow.
If you feel involved in the company in this way, then you also feel committed. Otherwise, you will ask why should I work here and not in another company where my input might be valued more?
What interesting trends are you seeing in the industry?
In the two years I’ve worked in the marine sector it’s been surprising to see the urgency of boaters and boat builders in seeking advanced comfort on board. A comfortable experience on the water is delivered by innovative products and stabilisation is fundamental to that aim.
Stabilisers have quickly moved from being like something out of a sci-fi movie where everyone asks what they are to being equipment that people understand when they visit our stands. They now want to understand our innovations and what makes us special compared to other products in the same field.
Customers want ease of use and durability. These requirements are not about money – they value their time on the water and they want the equipment on a boat to be accessible and work well consistently.
What is the importance of METSTRADE to your business?
It’s a really core event for us because it puts us in touch with shipyards and other marine professionals. The show is well known for highlighting innovative equipment and that’s right for our products – we launch our latest models there. We also like to keep an open eye on what is going on in the industry.
How do you plan a typical METSTRADE visit?
As an exhibitor we are really starting to heavily promote our products. we plan media events and try to create lots of opportunities to speak about company developments and have a catch up with everyone.
I’m always very busy on the Smartgyro stand so I don’t plan any time away from it, but I always try to find gaps to walk around METSTRADE. It is 100 per cent certain you will find something interesting.
Which METSTRADE areas and activities do you most look forward to?
The DAME Awards area is great to see the innovative products on display. We always have a walk through the Italian Pavilion – it's always nice to say hello to our friends there as we are based in the Super Yacht Pavilion. Research and development department colleagues also like to spend time in the Construction Material Pavilion to research new developments in materials and speak with suppliers.