Francesco Grillo has made Hong Kong his home and is bringing innovation to the supply chain movement with his venture, Steel Available.
What’s your story?
I am originally from Italy and have spent the last ten years in Asia. I lived in Pakistan for two years, mainland China for six and in Hong Kong for the last two. After graduating university with a degree in Law and a Masters in International Business, I started my career in alternative automotive fuel systems. After working in the downstream sector with gas-related consumer goods, it felt natural to move towards the upstream sector. I realised how conservative the industry is and decided to utilise the skills I acquired from my previous experience and bring innovation to supply chain management.
What excites you most about your industry?
In the grand scheme of things, energy and infrastructure are basic and important needs of all people. The world is currently living in an environmentally friendly movement pushing for clean water and green energy in order to improve the quality of life, which in recent years, Asia has played a large role. This industry involves a great deal of strategic approach and there is an immense amount of opportunity to accomplish what is left to do.
What’s your connection to Asia?
While I was attaining my Masters degree, I spent five weeks studying in China as part of the program. As soon as I stepped foot in China in 2006, I felt a new sense of energy and excitement. I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it. I was deeply fascinated by the country’s fast growth and development. After settling for professional reasons in Hong Kong, I quickly developed my own personal reasons to be here. I married and just started a family in Hong Kong. I want to make Hong Kong my home base.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is for sure my favourite city in Asia. It is where the east meets west. I also believe it to be a great gateway to China and it is very close to southeast Asia. It is a great base to do business.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The golden rule – “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you realise that everybody is fighting his or her own struggle for something. By doing so, we create empathy and understanding; which are the key elements for acceptance, respect and accord.
Who inspires you?
Simple people. I am inspired by those who live a very simple life. There is a large social gap in Asia and I truly respect the people who take on the tough and tiring jobs. They live a not-so-easy life, but are strong and persevere to create the best future for their families.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Coming from an industrial background, spending the last six months at blueprint accelerator in Hong Kong has been full of opportunity. I have been fully exposed to the startup industry and have become aware of challenging our own strategies. I am able to question our approach, habits and previous ways of doing things. We have sort of revolutionised our strategy along the way and continue to improve things that we have taken for granted beforehand.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Many things. I would have come to Asia earlier and studied architecture. For the last 15 to 20 years Asia has been a wonderful playground to shape cities and there is still a lot of potential to develop.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy playing sports, many kinds, preferably outdoors. I like to play squash, sail, wind surf and hike. I also really love to cook for friends and family.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love Thailand. The country is a great mixture of beautiful landscape and good food, with an amazing culture.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Business Model Generation
Shameless plug for your business:
We are a B2B business and have connected with over 1000 contacts through LinkedIn. I believe in easy connection. Whenever there is a potential introduction, I always do so.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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