Image source: Gelmax
When it comes to authentic Italian food, one would think imported ingredients. This was an opportunity that Gelmax Director and Founder, Maximiliano "Max" Loi, discovered when he visited Singapore. Gelmax is a leading importer and distributor of Italian food and beverages in Singapore, Indonesia and most recently, Dubai.
Last month, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Max in his Singapore office, as he recalled how gelatos sparked a business opportunity for him.
The Back Story
Gelmax was founded at a time when authentic gelatos and ice cream platters were yet to penetrate the Singapore market.
“It was back in 2002 when I first visited Singapore with my friends,” Max recalled. “I was craving for ice cream but when I looked around, I realized that they were only served in cones. In Italy, restaurants would serve them in platters with fruits, nuts and other toppings”, Max recalled. This opened up a conversation that would soon birth into a business.
In the same year, Max partnered with his friends and launched Gelmax. “We started with 20 products. Our first customers were homeowners and Italian restaurants,” said Max. Two years later, a new business partner, Mauro Ribezzi Danilo, joined Max to further shape up the business.
Growth and Expansion
Recognizing the rapidly growing customer demand, Gelmax invested on its first proprietary technology, Gelmax Global Management System (GGMS) by SAP. That was in 2008. Six months later, the company’s turnover was doubled.
In 2016, Gelmax made its first expansion to Indonesia, where it now serves a much larger market. Not long after, in 2017, Gelmax stepped in to Dubai.
Today, Gelmax offers hundreds of products and caters mainly to HORECA (Hotel, Restaurants, and Cafes) and GDO (Italian acronym for Large Retail Organization). Its customers include world-leading hotel chains, supermarkets, airlines, ship chandlers, caterers, gourmet stores, and majority of top notch restaurants.
Strength and Strategy
“We take pride in the way we 'do' food distribution. We don’t just look at the food. We sell food like one would sell computers — by envisioning the whole customer experience."
"We are very precise about information and we are very diligent in the way we operate,” said Max. “Seeing this as our core value, many companies have contacted us and partnered with us for distribution services.”
One of its strengths also lies in the fact that Gelmax is an adapter of technology. It is not afraid to innovate its processes and invest in new platforms. “We have introduced ideas to our ERP solution provider that pioneered their software developments. We were also the first in the [Singapore] market to have a picture catalogue of our products,” Max added.
When asked about their challenges and how they maintain the quality of their service, Max said, “We establish our own direct distribution network and keep the same distribution model for all. But we do recognize that each country is different, so we take a different approach on some aspects relating to infrastructure, import regulations, and customer behavior.”
“As we step foot into different countries, we observe the different customer behaviors and use them as valuable insights to better our service.”
In Singapore, for example, Max states that people want less talk time and expect everything to be digitized. “They prefer to purchase, track, and see promotions online. Dubai on the other hand is accustomed to face-to-face meetings — they scout by seeing the actual product and the purchasing happens face to face,” Max said.
“One of the common things we find in our customers is the way they consume information. Regardless of geography, the demand and expectation for real-time information is high.”
Digitizing through Zyllem
In December 2017, Gelmax made the necessary call to digitizing its logistics processes by partnering with Zyllem. A few months after rolling out Zyllem to Gelmax Singapore, Max was pleased to see obvious changes in his operations. According to him, the ability to monitor the delivery progress in real-time allows their back-office staff to be proactive rather than reactive when exceptions happen.
“It’s great to be able to monitor everything in real-time. For example, if we see a ‘failed delivery’, we can contact the driver or customer right away. From there, we can try resolve it to a ‘full delivery’ on the spot, instead of the next day.”
Having a control tower view of all deliveries as they happen allows Gelmax to better manage its operations and gives them a level of control over the outcome of each delivery. In addition to this, Gelmax can now measure driver performance by generating timely compliance reports.
More New Things to Come ...
“We have recently launched our sister company, goodfood.com.sg, for our Singapore customers to purchase Italian groceries online,” said Max. Through Zyllem’s integration with Shopify, Gelmax will be able to manage and track its Shopify delivery orders on the Zyllem portal.
“We have a lot of activities happening around Dubai following our recent expansion. We see exciting distribution and trade opportunities there. Most recently, we also opened an office in the Philippines to boost our marketing efforts,” Max added.
Max emphasized that delivering the best service to their customers is first. “Making it better for customers is a priority for us. For example, we want to eliminate ‘damaged goods’. When a product is declared in ‘good condition’ at the warehouse but arrives at the customer’s location otherwise, you’d wonder what went wrong,” Max explained. To address this issue, Max is looking to leverage on other Zyllem features such as enabling customer survey and further customizing his distribution processes. For example, warehouse processes can be configured in the platform to make sure standard procedures are followed, both in the warehouse and in the field.
With its commitment to deliver only quality products, and with a strategy built around customer experience and technology, the next business win is just around the corner for Gelmax.
>> Visit Gelmax website