Fit for champions

Technogym's Nerio Alessandri explains what it means to be exclusive supplier for the Olympics.

  • E-Mail
By  Edward Poultney Published  February 5, 2008

Technogym's Nerio Alessandri explains what it means to be exclusive supplier for the Olympics.

Technogym was born in my family's garage," begins Nerio Alessandri, the company's creator, founder and CEO.

Right on cue his assistant produces a picture of said garage complete with one of Technogym's very first models of fitness equipment. "My dream was always to become an entrepreneur, you see."

Philippe Starck was actually quoted as saying, when he saw the new range, that he was speechless.

From a one man operation in his parent's garage in small town Italy the company has grown over the last quarter century to become the benchmark for the fitness industry; over 1,400 employees are now spread across 12 global branches.

According to the company's figures, in Italy alone more than 30,000 fitness centres and 20,000 private households are equipped with Technogym equipment.

The financial figures reflect this: In 2004 to 2005 the group grew 115%; '05 to '06 saw 65% growth; and the '06 to '07 statistics are expected to come in at 83%.

In numbers this adds up to just over US$405m turnover for 2005, and a brand which enjoys global recognition in its field - the odds are that the vast majority of gym-goers will have used at least one piece of Technogym equipment in the last few months.

Yet Alessandri originally had little idea how to go about achieving his dream. "How could I?" he asks, "My family were set in their traditions and experiences and there isn't any tradition of entrepreneurship."

So the then 22-year-old set about combining his aptitude as an industrial designer and his passion for sports to create his first prototype.

"I took my competence for bio-mechanical design and technology and gymnastics - and made ‘Techno-gym'. Technology and gymnastics is my DNA."

Alessandri then took his first prototype to a small gym in his hometown that was owned by one of his friends.

"After a week I went back and lots of people were using it; it was successful because it was a real novelty - good design, easy to use, reliable..." the list goes on and it is hard to gauge how much is tongue-in-cheek until he laughs at his own list.

"And after a month my friend asked if I could try and make another one, and then, after a year, I completed the entire line. A year later I launched the company and Technogym Wellness was born."

From these humble beginnings to the position that the brand now occupies (exclusive supplier to the Olympic games in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and Torino; supplier to most of the Italian and European premier football teams; working with Ferrari; courted by global stars from Giorgio Armani to Madonna) requires a large amount of drive, and the slight Italian's desire to spread the word is evident in the way he talks of his product and the amount of energy that he puts into everything.

Throughout the interview he is always looking ahead, pulling out pictures, presentations and leaflets, and the animation with which he talks about the company shows that he does not just want acknowledgement, he wants converts.

His passion shines through not just in the product line that the company produces but in all aspects of the equipment; from reliability to design.

"We exhibited at the Salone del Mobile and we have won two awards; the Red Dot [one of the most prestigious design awards in Europe] and the Compasso D'Orro.

Philippe Starck was actually quoted as saying, when he saw the new range, that he was speechless! He praised it and said that he wanted it in his house - and this is something that has been designed by one of his competitors, Antonio Citterio!"

Alessandri wants Technogym's aesthetics to stand out from the crowd and to this end the company employs a department specifically to oversee this part of the process: "We position ourselves differently to otherv companies.

In the last 20 years everything that we've done has been Wellness design driven. We created a special department for this, we have 200 people in the Wellness centre.

The final product has to be part of the environment, like the furniture. Technogym has become number one in the world because customers buy not just the product but the ‘total solution'; technology, consulting services, software - as well as design."

This "total solution" is something that has tapped into the contemporary desire for healthy lifestyles and capitalised on the wealth of services that can be set up to cater for this. "You see, life has changed," Alessandri explains.

"15 years ago I wrote a book; it sold a lot of copies worldwide, but fifteen years ago people didn't fully understand. Now they buy wellness recipes, cars, hospitality."

"Wellness is the new frontier. The post-industrial era has meant that the person is at the centre of things and technology is now behind that; we've gone from hi-tech to high-touch."

"We need to rediscover our bodies, our balance, our values."

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code