green and tech interviews

Business in Dubai? Let the business Lady take care of it

Dubai - There’s no way around it: if you’re an Italian entrepreneur looking to do business in Dubai, you had better look up Valeria Di Santo.

di Chiara Risolo

Dubai - There’s no way around it: if you’re an Italian entrepreneur looking to do business in Dubai, you had better look up Valeria Di Santo. Since 2013, she has directed the Italian Business Council of Dubai (IBCD), a non-profit association recognized by the government and the Chamber of Commerce of the wealthy Emirate. “My job,” Di Santo explains, “consists of facilitating contacts between Italian enterprises and potential local clients; And the other way around. I represent a real human presence in an environment where communication flows primarily through social networks. Usually, it starts with a phone call, then, after some intense business scouting sessions, introductions and handshakes, the deal is sealed. It’s not actually that simple, but that’s what we aim for.” And, sure enough, her telephone rings off the hook. She speaks with a charming anglo-arab-italian accent (Ms. Di Santo is from the Abbruzzi region), and lends an ear to every single request from would-be-exporters, answering a never ending stream of calls. Tactful, yet resolute, she declares that, “Among its hundred or so members, the IBCD has huge players like Assicurazioni Generali, Pirelli, Guzzini, Saga Messina Shipping & Logistics, Al Fahim, Nakheel, Emirates Airlines, Paris Gallery, but also small scale entrepreneurs. What matters for me is to be able to contribute to the growth of trade and cultural exchange between nations, and facilitate the exchange of information.

I don’t cherry pick for big contracts; Let me be clear about this: I don’t get a cent: what kind of person would I be if I profited for having simply helped the right people meet each other at the right moment?” That much is credible, as an annual fee of between €500-1000 is charged to join the IBCD. Not an inordinate amount, seen the potential for business growth. Of immediate interest is the assistance Valeria Di Santo has been offering to the Caprai family; since 1955 the Italian group has made its mark in the textiles sector, its other enterprises being Arnaldo Caprai Societa Agricola and Maglital-Cruciani: a triad that together recorded a turnover of €150 million in 2014. Arianna Caprai, the head of global expansion at the textiles company, came to Dubai to attend the opening of a showroom; this will contain a display of their fine linen and home decor line which will be marketed to high end hotels as well. Valeria Di Santo has been married to Pasquale Della Penna for 25 years. Mr. Della Penna is the President of IBCD since 2011, and CEO of TSSC, a company that specializes in industrial construction, with a $200 million turnover. To top it all: Mr. Della Penna ranked 21st in a list of the 100 most influential people in the Gulf States, in a recent issue of the magazine MF International. Ahead of him, just to mention a few, appeared fashion designer Giorgio Armani and businessman Carlo Acampora. Other famous names, that ranked below him on the list were tycoons of the likes of Luca di Montezemolo and Matteo Marzotto.