[Interview] Lorenza Zanardi, Rajapack Italia: Technology, Women, and Development
The data is discouraging on both fronts. According to IDC research commissioned by Cornerstone OnDemand, the majority of the Italian companies aren't psychologically ready to revolutionize process and product models they've been using for a long time. Almost half of the entrepreneurs interviewed, 46% of them, have declared that the biggest obstacle for their own company will be trying to change their mentality and adapting themselves to working with new technologies. When it comes to Italian female occupation, the employment gap compared to men, is among the highest in Europe, equal to 18.4%. Only Turkey, Malta, and North Macedonia have more significant male-to-female employment gaps.
Nevertheless, in Italy, some excellent companies are exceptions to the rules and impose on themselves virtuous models to follow. This is what's happening at Rajapack Italia: a rapidly-growing company where they're taking concrete actions in favor of female workers, as well as fostering a workplace that's open to technological and digital development.
WAM developed Rajapack Italia's Salesforce Pardot tool, which was already implemented but the company had not yet taken full advantage of its features. WAM carried out an audit of its Pardot use and has defined and implemented a marketing strategy, including improvements to the set-up, scoring/grading definition, and template and workflow creation. Beyond this, WAM has also handled the adoption process through a training course with the Rajapack team, both on-site with two hours of coaching per week, and classroom training. We support all our work with monthly reports to control performance, improve our strategy, and reach the previously-defined goals.
Rajapack Italia is part of Raja Group, a leader in the distribution of packaging products, and is present in 18 European countries with 21 European affiliates.
We sat down for an interview with their General Manager, Lorenza Zanardi, who has been at the helm since 2010.
WAM: At 32 years old you became the General Manager of Rajapack Italia. You are proof that being young and a woman are not necessarily two obstacles to having a thriving career. Do you think that these could also be two strong points?
Lorenza Zanardi: I'm convinced that trust in young people and women could be a strong point for companies. Charisma, courage, enthusiasm and creativity, traits that young people possess, can provide added value to the economy and corporations at large. In my case, I am proof of this idea. I was named General Manager at just 32; after a long growth period inside RAJA Group From the very beginning, RAJA Group characterized itself with a strong female presence. RAJA is the acronym of Rachel and Janine, the Group's two founders, and our current president is a charismatic female figure, Danièle Kapel-Marcovici. In 2007, we had six female partners in Italy, and today, we have around 50, and 63% of them are women. As the numbers show, it's an additionally distinctive trait and extra gear in a traditionally male-dominated sector.
W: You have a Bachelor's degree in History and Foreign and French literature, making your education very international. How much influence has it had on your approach to work?
LZ: Knowing foreign languages has contributed to making my mind more flexible; it's made me capable of producing faster connections, and putting things that appear disparate at first glance together. Above all, knowing French helped me foster a trusting relationship with the management in France.
W: In your opinion, what are the must-have characteristics of a leader?
LZ: Inspiration, passion, innovation, positivity, and responsibility are just some of the characteristics that, in my opinion, a leader needs to have. Giving a clear definition of a leader isn't a straightforward task at all because when we talk about leadership, there are a lot of factors to consider when dealing with ideas, and with actions as well. However, I think that leadership could be the art of motivating a group of people acting to reach a common aim. It's very different from self-management skills; being a leader means to also be able to inspire others every day.
W: RAJA Group's model is "Agir pour les femmes dans le monde," or "Acting for women around the world" in French. How can you create a working environment that considers women's needs?
LZ: As a woman, it's easier for me to understand women's needs, but there is also Danièle Kapel's sensitivity at the top, and through her foundation, from 2006 to today, she has donated over 9 million euros to 269 associations involved in solidarity projects supporting women and the environment. "Agir pour les femmes dans le monde" is the Raja Danièle Marcovici Foundation's motto. In the company, we usually value women with small but significant moments of recognition; I love mentioning the "bow in the company," a Manager Italia initiative, which is an association I'm involved in.
I decided to take part in this project because it gives our female collaborators the ability to take advantage of various benefits, but above all, it gives them real help: they get up to 80% of their salary instead of 30% when they're on maternity leave. They're also updated with a newsletter and invited for essential meetings while on maternity leave.
Women are great to work with on a team, and at Rajapack, we are the majority, and we support each other.
W: How is Rajapack Italia tackling the Digital Transformation?
LZ: Our e-commerce site is not only for online sales, but it's also a more efficient way for us to organize the company. We've digitized all our corporate processes, making them more fluid and dynamic. Over the past few years, we've reduced the print expenses for paid catalogs and have increased our web spending in SEO and SEM, with a subsequent 10% in our new customer acquisition costs. The fact that we will print fewer catalogs in the future is not a negative for us; this is an essential reduction on an environmental, as well as on a financial level.
The other sales channels, however, won't disappear and won't be cannibalized.
The call center is a complement to our e-commerce site. One of our more-appreciated benefits is that the order doesn't stop with online confirmation. The customer has optimal customer service that's ready to act and solve any problem that comes their way. Moreover, for big companies with this need, we offer them the possibility of having a person assigned to them who can offer the best, personalized packaging solutions that meet their needs.
In this regard, our multichannel approach is our strength, an additional guarantee for customers that with the arrival and evolution of digital, it won't get lost. Physical presence, perceived behind the virtual one, reassures and builds online customer loyalty.
W: Rajapack Italia is the fifth most-important affiliate in Europe, after Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, even if they've been on the market longer. Do you think that technology has been a discriminating factor for this fast growth?
LZ: I'm sure that technology is a discriminating factor! These countries have been on the market for longer, but we are growing faster.
When we generally talk about online shopping, Italy usually appears at the tail-end in Europe.
We're showing that this trend could be reserved, with the turnover originating from the Italian online program equaling 34%, ahead of Spain's 32%, the United Kingdom's 32%, France's 29%, and Germany's 29%. Plus, regarding the number of new online customers, we are in first place. In Europe, we're second only to the Netherlands, which is at 86%, and ahead of France (80%), the United Kingdom (79%), and Spain (73%). The digitization that has permitted this critical development is not limited to the online channel but is structural and applicable to all areas of the company.
W: What's the Rajapack Italia customer profile and in what ways do you try to get to know their needs?
LZ: Rajapack's strength lies in its ability to find packaging solutions for both the small artisan that buys a few pieces but asks for next-day delivery and to the big multinational Group that needs to have the equipment, personalized packaging, multisite deliveries, framework agreements about prices, and online e-procurement services. We always guarantee excellent service for every single one of our customers. The customer and all their needs are at the heart of all our actions.
W: What are Rajapack Italia's next challenges?
LZ: We have a lot of ambitious projects as always! A project we have already been working on is our future website, Rajanext. It will go live in 2020 and consist of a standard platform available from all the Raja Group's branches. In this direction, we are working to improve the website's user experience and make it coherent for every device, thanks to a completely responsive website redesign. This is a critical project that will also reflect on our improvements in e-procurement, thanks to implementing the self-service functionality and integrating this service within the same website platform.
We are creating the basis for the future of the Rajamarket Project: the Raja marketplace that will permit us to open up an easy way of cataloging our product range.
Relating to logistics, after the storehouse extension in 2018, when we've gone from 6.300 to 12.000 m2, we're up to create a dedicated area to small-dimensioned products with enlarging the product offer and subsequent objective of optimizing spaces.
Moreover, to improve our operators' distance in our warehouse, we are evaluating the possibility of introducing the multi-levy concept, allowing our dispatchers to pick up multiple orders during the same pick-up run and allowing ourselves to be more efficient.
We will even build some loading docks dedicated to our big customers; this project will also allow us to have higher quality control for handling incoming goods and avoid a doubling handling of storage in case of a same o next-day direct delivery to a customer.
This speed-up in our process will make us more precise and efficient in completing these crucial orders and more responsive to the growing market trend of packaging product customizations.
Also, in 2019, the warehouse will be the beating heart of our activity. We are a firm in constant evolution, even from an educational perspective. We will be adding to our educational programs with some individual coaching programs for our managers that will be useful for combining professional skills and more robust soft skills.