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Interview with Vincenzo Trani, the founder of the General Invest holding

Vincenzo Trani: I am a banker who is engaged in microcredits

Vincenzo Trani is a Neapolitan, 43, a banker. He spent half of his life in Russia. Collects retro cars and launches "Delimobile". He founded the General Invest holding (it includes the Mikro Capital fund), which is engaged in lending to small and medium-sized businesses.

General Invest together with "INTEZA Bank" were the general partners of the business forum in Milan on September 21. It is held within the framework of Moscow Days - 2017. But on the same day Vincenzo Trani managed to open a new office of Mikro Capital in Milan. At the inauguration came the former minister, and now the president of the Italian National Agency for Microcredit Marco Baccini, Cardinal Mario Toso, the president of the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce Rosario Alessandrello and many others. After the official part, we talked with Vincenzo Trani about microcredits, cars (common and own), Russia and Russian women ...

- Who you are?

- I am a banker, who is engaged in microcredits.

- Why microcredits?

- The topic of microcredits was the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). In the 1990s, specialists of the bank analyzed and came to the conclusion that the European economy begins with small business. Those. for the development of any sector of the economy you need many, many small entrepreneurs. So that is how the economy of Italy and Germany, and even the USA was born. From small businesses to the big ones. And that's why microcredit is like a pill in medicine - it is necessary for the economy to be healthy and able to develop.

- In Russia, capitalism began in a different way. With large state-owned enterprises, and only then move down to small and medium-sized businesses.

- Yes, exactly the opposite. And what happened in Russia, the privatization of large enterprises is a different story. Each country has its own history, and it is useless to speculate whether it is good or bad, this is the story in which we live. Then each government tries to get the maximum effect and the greater benefit from what it has. Therefore, the situation in Russia - first privatization of large companies, but only now the development of small and medium-sized businesses - is its history. I began to engage in small business lending in Russia back in the early 2000s, when the EBRD actively financed this segment, and oversaw this project in the Volga and Ural regions and lived in Samara for the first two years. From there, I began to learn about Russia.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin at the inauguration of "Delimobile" in Moscow

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin at the inauguration of "Delimobile" in Moscow, photo © Mikro Kapital

- Did you have any problems with the language?

- I studied Russian language for six months in Italy, but it turned out, that I had to learn it as quickly as possible. Even my employees did not know the English language, especially the inhabitants of the city. Therefore, to communicate, and not only with colleagues, but also in the store, I had to take Russian language seriously.

- There were funny stories about this?

- Perhaps, as now, I remember, the hotel "Transit" in Samara. I just came to this city, I found a hotel, I took a room that was cheaper. Nice, clean, two beds. I went to sleep, and suddenly a man with laggage comes in the middle of the night, and settles down beside him. For me it was a shock. Only then I found out that I bought only the bed in the room, and they settled a roommate to me. I realized that the price list should be read more attentively.

-  Is it true that you are, perhaps, the only foreigner who visited 260 Russian cities ...

- I'll even say more, probably, there are very few Russians who have traveled so much in their country. I was in many cities of Russia, I drove it from north to south, from west to east, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, from Syktyvkar to Sochi, and I did it with pleasure to get acquainted with Russian reality.

- Which city is the most popular?

Samara was the first city where I lived for a long time, I like the city itself and its inhabitants. And it is impossible to forget it, as the first love. Then, as an Italian, I really like St. Petersburg, and this is the best city where to live. But from the point of view of business, to live in Moscow is a great happiness. And for me, as a businessman, this is the only city.

Samara - this was the first city where Trani lived for a long time

Samara - this was the first city where Trani lived for a long time, photo WEB

- How does your business develop in other CIS countries and Eastern Europe?

- Very good. We work in Belarus, in 5 cities. In this country I was offered to develop the business of Pavel Borodin, then he was Secretary of the Russia and Belarus Union State. And this was the first investment after Russia. Then Moldova, where we work in 6 cities, Armenia (Yerevan) and Romania.

- Where is microcredit most important? In Russia or in Europe?

- Most relevant in Russia. But here they confuse microcrediting with lending a small amount to paychecks. And these are not the loans that the EBRD supported and are supported by the Central Bank. And it is important that the Central Bank created specific rules. It divided those who are engaged in lending to small businesses and those who credit to salary. Probably, the latter are also important, although this is often the way to nowhere. And those who lend to small businesses are an important element in the development of the economy. We are not engaged in the development of a credit pit, we are engaged in the development of entrepreneurship.

- Do you invest in the future of Russia, helping it to develop, creating a basis for small enterprises?

- Yes, all the more, almost all our start-ups are technological enterprises. And it is important to find entrepreneurs with good ideas.

- But, if you remember, in the late 90's there was an Internet boom, thousands of companies were created, banks gave money. And then this bubble was blown away, 95% of the companies left the market, however, there were also monsters, like Google or Amazon. How do you find nuggets?

- I'm not looking for a fairy tale, I'm not looking for ideal companies, I'm not looking for Google or Amazon, because they are hard to find. I'm looking for small companies that are trying hard, and even if they have difficulties, they will be able to successfully sell their business to larger operators, and then they will create a new one. We finance small enterprises that will become middle peasants.

- You launched the first in Russia project of the Delimobile carcharing  ... Were you hoping for success?

- Yes, it was the Private Equity project, independent investments in the real sector of the economy. Or, more precisely, an investment project that destroys the existing model of the economy and human behavior. He teaches not to have a car, but to take it when necessary, even for a minute.

"Delimobile" was a project of Private Equity

Delimobile was a project of Private Equity, photo © Mikro Kapital

- This is not a very Russian model. Were there doubts?

- Oh sure. When the Delimobile was launched in 2015, there were doubts about the specifics of the Russian mentality, and, of course, with sanctions. But we chose a business model where cars were of Russian assembly, and in addition, the source of financing was foreign, but in rubles. The car we chose Hyundai, it's the best-selling car in Russia, and now Renault, the SUV, higher level. And things are going quite well.

- Where are you developing?

- Now we are in Moscow and St. Petersburg, on October 4 we open in Ufa, in early December in Nizhny Novgorod, early next year in Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. We have a request, and have almost worked out a model in the city of Grozny. And they came to us by itself, the transport minister of Chechnya asked me why we are all in big cities, and not try in Grozny?

- And how to imagine such a futuristic model, which is discussed in Europe: you go on an electric car along the motorway, you stop at a gas station to have a bite, and just change the car for a similar one, already charged (there is no time to wait for 2 hours to charge). How can such a model, where people refuse completely from your car, work in Russia?

- I'm still skeptical about the electric car. Not in principle, but in the weather conditions of Russia. We tested 6 different cars of different companies, and neither one nor the other did not cope with the traditional conditions of use there. We also plan electric cars, but only when their technical characteristics significantly improve. Those, the problem is not even in a small number of charging stations, namely in the car itself. Therefore, we will return to them, but, probably, not earlier than in 5 years.

Trani is still skeptical about electric vehicles

Trani is still skeptical about electric vehicles, photo WEB

- That is, you are not very "green" with your cars?

- No, on the contrary. Our model allows you to significantly reduce the number of drivers, and therefore both traffic and emissions into the atmosphere. After all, people, using our service, do not go from behind the city for 50 km, they take our Delimobile only for a few kilometers as necessary.

- And the Moscow mayor's office somehow helps you, I do not know how, in other European cities, maybe free parking, privileges?

- Firstly, they created the legislative base, which allowed to create a carsharing. Moreover, this is decided not at the federal level, but in each city separately. We received support in Moscow and St. Petersburg, in Ufa, we also expect it.

- And Uber is not your competitor?

- No, the taxi, and in particular, Uber - it's not our competitors. We are cheaper by 40% than a taxi. But I must say, the client chooses us, not only because it is cheaper. This is a customer who wants to sit behind the wheel, wants to ride.

- And many such in Russia?

- Lots of!!! And many people who can not afford to buy a car. Or have, but it is not near him.

- This is a big difference with Italy, where the density of cars is the highest in Europe, more than 700 cars per 1000 people.

- Yes, and the model of the carsharing of Milan and Moscow is different. First, fuel is cheaper in Moscow, and secondly, labor is cheaper than in Italy, because there is less taxation, and third, the cost of insurance - in Russia it is much cheaper, and fourth, there are many more residents in Moscow compared with Milan, that's why we analyzed the models of Milan and Moscow and came to the conclusion that in Moscow it is much more interesting to develop it.

In Italy, the density of cars is the highest in Europe

In Italy, the density of cars is the highest in Europe, photo WEB

- World chess champion Anatoly Karpov collects stamps, and you, I heard, cars?

- Yes. I collect retro cars. In Moscow, I have  "Pobeda", 1954, and  black "Chayka", which was used by the Minister of Defense of Kabardino-Balkaria, also there are many Italian cars.

- Cars are in Moscow, or between Italy and Russia?

- Yes, between Italy and Russia, because they are difficult to transport from country to country.

- 20 years ago you came to Russia and did not think there to stay so long ... Do you regret this, want to return to Italy?

- No, I'm glad that it happened, and I'm not going to return. I really like Moscow.

- It seems, we talked about everything, forgot about Russian women ...

- Russian women are generally, the secret of my success in business. They always had family and work, they are strong and strong-willed. Therefore, when I look at these women, I see not only beauty (although they are very beautiful!), But also patience, the desire to achieve results, dedication, professionalism ...

- Well, yes, I do not know the gender composition of your company, but after what you said, I think that 80% of it are women.

- Yes you are right. It is 80% of women. How did you guess?

- I was a mathematician, and now I'm an analyst.

Evgeni Utkin, Italy, Milan

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