It’s not the first time that the passion for the sea results in a professional dimension. What’s rare, however, is to see a businessman who, after having developed all his career in other sectors, finally decides to land in the world of boat industry making his choice a success.
In the case of Antonello Caracciolo, a 53-year-old Italian entrepreneur born in Foggia but living in Milan, passion and entrepreneurial skills have merged together in a historic brand within the Italian boat industry: Kardis Marine.
Antonello Caracciolo has always loved the sea so much that, when he was still a student, he saved his money to buy, at the age of 19, his first Rib. Irresistibly attracted by the sea, he is also crazy for ribs that, providing with a great feeling of freedom, allow him to sail fast and easily, enjoy the sea and look beyond the horizon.
His view of the sea and that of life probably feed off each other to the advantage of both the sailor and the businessman. At the age of 22, Antonello Caracciolo was indeed already the owner of Prevenzione Italia, a small company specialized in fire and risk prevention systems. Over the years and thanks to the increasing growth of his company, Caracciolo started to come into contact with many boat manufacturers and the idea of becoming a nautical entrepreneur in his turn started to take shape in his mind.
Cautiously, he started his new activity by building just two models, the Fox 540 and the Tatanka 690, only later followed by other boats for a total of 8 different models that are immediately appreciated by the market.
From September of last year until today, the shipyard has sold 96 boats.
“Doing business is not something just anyone can do – he tells us sitting in his office on the first floor of the Kardis’ Vernate-based headquarter (just few km from Milan) – specific competences and management skills are inevitably required. Then, they can be applied in different fields and that’s what I did when I started my new job with Kardis”.
Fire prevention and boat industry are, however, two completely different sectors. More specifically, the second is getting out of a very troubled period and specific knowledge is inevitably necessary to start to move one’s first steps inside.
Yes, it’s true and this is why, when I decided to take over the Kardis in 2014 – still a very troubled period for boat industry – , I travelled all around Italy in order to understand how this compartment was changed after the terrible years of the crisis. And I realized that, if I wanted to have a chance, I had to focus on few simple clear ideas: absolute quality, in-house manufacturing and great craftsmanship.
Why did you decide to take over such a historic brand?
First of all, because the product had a very positive feedback on the market. Then, because of an aesthetic judgement: Kardis ribs were, in my opinion, sturdy and extremely beautiful at the same time. This is why we decided to revive a brand that, thanks to its founder, Mr. Andrea Cardinetti, is a historic brand of boat industry.
Let’s continue talking about products. Are you going to launch any new models?
Yes, we are, of course. Subject to the quality and craftsmanship of our production processes, we’re building some new models for a new product line that will be presented at the Cannes Yachting Festival and all the other next fall boat shows.
Who’s your typical customer? What do Kardis customers have in common?
I couldn’t tell whether there’s a technical common denominator among our customers or not. What’s certain is that they share the same approach to the sea. Our customer is generally a leisure boater looking for a boat for long exciting sailing experiences. What he needs for is a reliable means to enjoy long cruises. We exactly know that because we constantly listen to both our customers and dealers. The latter are in fact in daily direct contact with end users.
Among the 96 inflatable boats you’ve sold this year, the Fox 570 is the best-selling one. However, your flagship, the 12.50, is being significantly successful, too. Can you confirm a certain preference among enthusiasts to buy bigger and bigger boats?
Yes, the market has already sent out many clear signals in this respect, especially as regards boats of over 12 mt in length. As I’ve told you before, we constantly try to monitor these signals and anticipate them especially through our dealers. At present, our production is getting more balanced although 6-metre ribs still represent the bulk of our sales. These market analysis have recently convinced us to design a new 15-metre boat that is expected to be presented in 2018.
Speaking about future plans, while the sizes of your ribs grow, your company, too, is going to experience an important enlargement? What is it about?
Over the last few years we’ve grown from all points of view. Today, 29 employers work inside our company and take care of all the production phases of our boats, from hull lamination to the creation of Hypalon tubulars. We therefore need some additional spaces where to build our boats and we’ve recently took over a 25,000-square-metre area where a 12,000-square-metre covered space will be specifically used to build working vessels, fishing boats, tenders and even a trawler. It will be not just a production site but a real service centre.
So, new boats, a new production site, growing figures. From this point of view, Kardis reflects a certain recovery in the world of boat industry that we can finally consider as real. In your opinion, what does it take for a stronger impetus in the Italian boat industry?
We all must believe in what we have: qualities, traditions, design and technical skills. And, of course, we need consistent legislative choices, too. Italy has a coastline of 3,600 km which represents an incomparable heritage. Our politicians must be aware of the importance of boat industry in our country along with its potentiality in terms of job opportunities and revenue. From the Monti government until today, nothing has been done in support of our sector.