|Olivetti International - 90 years of inovation.
||Ing. C. Olivetti & C., S.p.A. - the "first Italian typewriter factory" - was founded by Camillo Olivetti on 29 October 1908, in Ivrea. It had 20 employees and a production facility consisting of a 500 m2 workshop, with a weekly output of 20 machines. The company's first typewriter, the M1, was presented at the Universal Fair in Turin in 1911.
Olivetti grew rapidly, building up its product offer and opening subsidiaries in Europe and the rest of the world.
The M1 was followed by other typewriters (including the first portable models), as well as teleprinters, calculators, office furniture and fittings.
The company also manufactured electric typewriters and calculators and began producing numerical controls. New manufacturing facilities were opened in Italy and, as from 1930, in other countries.
At the same time, Olivetti flanked its extensive Italian sales organisation with operations in the rest of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
Adriano Olivetti: culture and growth
| One of the key figures behind the company's rapid expansion was Adriano Olivetti, Camillo's son. Appointed to the post of director general in 1933, he established a corporate style and culture that would win Olivetti a unique place in Italian and European industrial history.
Adriano paid particular attention to technological expertise, innovation and product quality and strengthened the company's international operations.
His emphasis on the importance of industrial design laid the foundations for a tradition of excellence that continues today. He was also interested in the social aspects of the workplace and the relationship between the company and the local community.
Under Adriano's leadership, the 1950s was a time of extraordinary growth, during which Olivetti established itself as the undisputed leader in mechanical office product technology: its flagship product was the Divisumma 24 calculator, with the millionth item coming off the production lines in 1967.
The expansion of Olivetti's international commercial and production facilities led in 1959 to the acquisition of Underwood, a leading US typewriter manufacturer.
This period also saw the first major transformation in the company's history when, with great foresight, Olivetti invested in the new field of electronics.
The result was the introduction in 1959 of the Elea 9003, Italy's first electronic computer.
The move to electronics and information technology
Adriano Olivetti's death in 1960 and a series of financial problems subsequently forced Olivetti to sell its Electronics Division. Nevertheless, it continued to work in electronics and in 1965 presented the P101, an innovative programmable desktop computer, which is widely regarded as the precursor of the Personal Computer.
||The 1970s was an important time during which Olivetti introduced advanced organisational models and invested heavily in the electronics field to acquire new technologies and develop new skills.
However, the high cost of converting to electronics left it in serious financial difficulties by the end of the decade.
In 1978 Carlo De Benedetti bought a shareholding and took over management of the company.
Olivetti completed the conversion to electronics, accelerated the pace of new product development and, thanks to a series of capital increases and measures to improve operating efficiency, made a strong financial recovery. It was now set for a new period of growth.
Key products launched during this time included the first electronic typewriter (the ET 101 in 1978) and the first personal computer (the M20 in 1982); this was followed two years later by the M24, an outstanding international success.
||These and other products and services marked Olivetti's entry into information technology, a field in which the company would establish itself as the European leader. During the 1980s, Olivetti accelerated its growth with a series of international acquisitions and alliances, as well as a number of venture capital operations.
A key alliance was formed with the American company AT&T at the end of 1983. With its move into information technology, Olivetti introduced a succession of systems lines and also expanded into the IT services business.
Its solutions were based on the principle of open, standard systems - a policy subsequently adopted by all the world's leading IT players. The office products offer also grew, extending from electronic word processing equipment and calculators to printers, fax, cash registers, photocopiers and office supplies.
The development of the bubble ink-jet technology opened up new business opportunities and paved the way for fresh growth.
Olivetti and telecommunications
Perceiving the enormous potential of telecommunications, at the beginning of the 1990s, Olivetti and a group of investors (including some of the world's top telecoms operators) set up Omnitel to operate in the mobile communications field.
Having obtained an operating licence, Omnitel began commercial service at the end of 1995: the start of an extraordinary success story. Similar strategic thinking lay behind the formation of a fixed-line provider - Infostrada - in 1995.
Within a few years, these two operations would transform Olivetti and project it into a new period of growth.
In the first half of the 1990s, the growing pressures of global competition, the slide in prices and margins throughout the IT industry, the weakness of the European market in general and the Italian market in particular forced Olivetti to implement a long and costly restructuring.
In September 1996, at a particularly difficult time, Olivetti - led by Roberto Colaninno - began a sweeping transformation to strengthen its focus on Telecommunications and rationalise its operations in Information Technology.
The process involved a series of new telecommunications alliances, most notably with Germany's Mannesmann group (1997), and the sale of the personal computers division (1997) and the systems and services operation (1998).
With these disposals, the Group refocused its IT business on a number of specific sectors (office products; specialised systems; IT services for the Italian market).
Once Olivetti had completed its financial recovery and regained the confidence of the international financial community, Colaninno took action to strengthen the shareholding structure and implement an ambitious new growth strategy.
In February 1999, Olivetti and its Tecnost subsidiary announced their intention of launching a voluntary public tender offer on 100% of Telecom Italia ordinary shares.
The offer closed in June with the acquisition of more than 52% of Telecom Italia ordinary stock, for an outlay of 31.5 billion euros.
At the same time, in compliance with anti-trust laws, Olivetti sold its assets in Omnitel and Infostrada to Mannesmann. This completed the final and perhaps most important transformation of Olivetti, which is now Italy's largest telecommunications group, with revenues of approximately 148,000 billion lire and 132,000 employees.