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Global Management Forum 2019

Argentine luxury polo brand goes digital to win in Asia

La Martina founder works with Samsung and Google to extend reach

La Martina founder and Chairman Lando Simonetti tells the Nikkei Asian Review about his plans for Asia. (Photo by Kotaro Igarashi)

TOKYO -- Argentine luxury polo brand La Martina aims to use digital tools to expand in Asia, coupled with a plan to open an office in Singapore next year, its founder and chairman told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview.

La Martina, a family-owned business founded in 1985, sells clothing and equipment for the equestrian "sport of kings." With stores in over 56 countries including the U.K. and Italy, the brand is worn by top polo teams at universities, private clubs and events -- as well as royals.

Though it has stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, the brand has only a limited presence in Asia. "Now with all the digital [initiatives] we did not have last year, we believe we have a sure chance to come into Asia," Lando Simonetti said on the sidelines of the Nikkei Global Management Forum.

"As the world is crumbling around, we have to change strategy to grow," Simonetti said, referring to global political tensions, protectionism and social unrest in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

While Simonetti said in a separate speech that Asia was not the company's priority because polo was not as popular in the region compared with other parts of the world, he said he has started talking with Chinese companies about partnerships. "Chinese interest started to increase" and is "very very strong," he stressed.

The company only started investing in its own online store in the last two years, and is collaborating with tech companies. It is also working with Google on advertising. To expand its ties with polo clubs as well as its marketing to consumers, Simonetti said he is planning to build a more holistic platform to manage all activities of the company.

In Italy, La Martina is working with South Korean smartphone maker Samsung Electronics on in-store screens and promotional videos. Its stores are equipped with Samsung touch screens that show promotional visuals and allow customers to place orders online. It also filmed videos using Samsung phones.

Simonetti said video has become a more important medium in the digital age, replacing traditional fashion advertising in magazines. He also said he wants to work with Samsung in similar ways in other countries. "We want to have collaboration with Samsung in everything ... I want to be next to them and learn," he said.

The planned office in Singapore, Simonetti said, will manage businesses and contracts with Southeast Asia, Japan and China. He added that he is looking to seal distribution or licensing contracts in the region, and will start hiring local employees.

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