Why Italian MBAs Do It Better

Passionate nation has stellar business schools and thriving local industries

From the modern industrial north to the ancient majesty of Rome and the hurriedness of the south, Italy is a colorful tapestry, seducing MBA students and graduates yearning for a taste of La Dolce Vita, or the sweet life.

Madonna put it simply. In the music video for 1986 single Papa Don’t Preach she wore a t-shirt bearing the slogan: “Italians do it better”.

With the Eurozone crisis, the tax fraud, and “bunga-bunga” antics of disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has endured a turbulent recent past.

But after three years of recession, the Italian economy is showing signs of recovery.

Italy’s current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced an expansive new budget containing up to $30 billion worth of tax cuts and new investment.

Although his plan could yet be rejected by the European Commission for breaching austerity rulings, it is emblematic of an ambitious nation eager to bolster its economy and encourage new business.

“The future of Italy is strictly linked to start-up evolution,” says Stefano Rabbacchi, a recent MBA graduate from Bologna Business School (BBS) working at recycling start-up GreenTech. “We have to generate new business and retain the flexibility of a small company, ready to replace old products with new ideas,” he says of GreenTech.

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According to Italy’s chamber of commerce, there are over 4,000 registered start-ups in Italy. With venture capital investment beginning to flow back into the country, and with government-backed investment program Invitalia funding a growing start-up scene, Italy could become Europe’s next hub for entrepreneurial MBAs.

At the same time, Italy’s traditional industries still attract large swarms of aspiring business leaders.

A recent QS report found huge growth in MBA hiring in the manufacturing and engineering sector. The “Made in Italy” brand is prominent across a variety of fields.

Many are attracted to the thriving tourism industry. Italy boasts more World Heritage Sites than any other country and is the fifth most visited nation in the world, according to last year’s UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Business-minded visitors may be drawn to Milan, Italy’s financial center, where chic boutiques also display the riches of Italy’s fashion and luxury sectors, housing world-famous designer brands such as Gucci, Prada, Versace and Giorgio Armani. The luxury industry has almost doubled in size since 2000, Bain & Company reports, due to increasing numbers of luxury consumers from China in particular.

In Milan, iconic luxury-brand supercars — such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati — produced in the manufacturing powerhouses of the north, speed past shop-fronts.

“Milan is the Italian city most able to change and adapt to new cultures and new opportunities coming its way,” says Andrea Di Grado, a Milanese 2014 MBA graduate from MIP Politecnico di Milano

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For Andrea, MIP stood out for its classes, professors and opportunities; its MBA students are exposed to all that one of the world’s foremost business hubs has to offer.

“Milan has evolved a lot in the past year,” Andrea continues, “mainly due to Expo [Milano 2015].”

Over six months from May to October this year, Expo has exhibited the world’s best technology relating to food and diet under the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.

With 145 participating countries and numerous international organizations showcasing to more than 20 million visitors, the universal exposition reinforces Milan’s reputation as an innovative, forward-thinking city.

It was Italy’s world-renowned food and wine industry which attracted Lan Liu, a Chinese MBA student at BBS who is specializing in the field.

“I studied enology and viticulture in China and I have experience in France, Germany and Spain. But for wine, the perfect destination has to be Italy,” says Lan. 

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“Bologna is simply beyond expectation; famous for food, music and motors — and featuring the oldest university in the western world,” he says. “It is a diverse city, full of character and full of surprises.”

Enchanted by his MBA experience at BBS, Lan is a true advocate of La Dolce Vita.

“I think what makes Italy special is the constant pursuit of a better quality of life. You can easily feel the emotion of the Italian people. It is so real and strong and it brings the country to life.”

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