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We mean business

The business relations between Malta and France are thriving.

From left, Benjamin Carlotti and Valery Bollier.From left, Benjamin Carlotti and Valery Bollier.

Valery Bollier

CEO, Oulala Games Limited

What was your first experience of Malta?

I arrived in Malta 10 years ago to launch an iGaming site called ZEturf. I will always remember my first night on the island. It was May 25, 2005 and the restaurant I was eating in was showing the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan. There was a huge crowd and an extraordinary atmosphere.

Once the match ended, half the crowd partied all night long. The following day, I asked my lawyer where such passion came from and he explained to me the connection between Maltese people and Italian and English football teams. This was the first proof of Maltese generosity.

Why did you decide to set up base in Malta?

Benjamin Carlotti and I launched the beta version of fantasy football site Oulala in August 2013. Malta was a logical choice: an English-speaking EU member state, only a few hours away from any major European city. Malta also has the most efficient pro-business environment that I have ever seen in my career. When launching a start-up, it’s essential that your energy is not wasted on, for instance, Kafkaesque administrative issues. Here, we can focus on what matters most for our company.

What inspired your decision to settle down in Malta?

Apart from assets such as safety, great weather, nice people and the sea, Malta also has a very good education system and a modern and efficient health system – my son was born at Mater Dei Hospital and I was amazed by the quality of service. When you add all the business and personal factors, I think Malta is one of the best places to live right now.

What growth have you experienced?

We have attracted more than 16,000 registered clients, built partnerships with major football brands like AS Monaco, and are gaining visibility every day all over Europe. We’re also currently closing our first external funding round. We’re working hard with our team to maintain and increase our current competitive advantage.

How do the Maltese and French markets compare and differ?

France has amazing assets. However, it’s a very mature market: therefore, when you come up with an innovation, you’ll probably annoy someone and will need to fight hard to survive. On the other hand, Malta is a land of opportunity. I’m also always amazed by Maltese people’s optimism about the future, which is in harmony with the entrepreneurial spirit.

What are the main hurdles to doing business in Malta?

The overall system still has to improve at different levels – for instance, we need more venture capitalists to help and finance Maltese start-ups. Still, the Maltese business landscape has improved exponentially over the last few years. I’m impressed by the work done by Malta Enterprise and by the emergence of TakeOff business incubator. Maltese people are very pragmatic and when I see the dedication that Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his professional team is investing to build an even more pro-business environment, I also share the Maltese optimism about the future.

Margot Pisani

Country manager, Sanofi Malta Limited

In which sector does Sanofi Malta Limited operate?

Sanofi Malta Limited is a sales and marketing affiliate office of French company Sanofi. The company is the result of the merger of many pharmaceutical companies, most recently Genzyme, a company dedicated to the treatment of rare diseases, and Zentiva, a manufacturer of generic drugs.

Locally, many Sanofi products are household names. Sanofi is focused on delivering medical innovation especially in oncology, rare diseases, diabetes, inflammation and disease prevention and patient support.

Sanofi Malta Limited is an affiliate of a large French pharmaceutical company. How does this Franco-Maltese relationship work?

Sanofi Malta Limited was set up 10 years ago. Early on we were approached by the economic office of the French Embassy in Malta and the Maltese-French Chamber of Commerce. Both offered assistance and welcomed us into the local French business community.

As for working with the French corporate office, this was not difficult. Since the work ethics are very similar and Sanofi is a multinational company, corporate office is used to working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

How do the Maltese and French markets compare and differ?

The markets are similar in that both countries are regulated by the local and European medicine authorities. In both Malta and France, the general public is taking a bigger part of their own healthcare in their own hands and patients are using social medial to seek more healthcare information.

In Malta we have two distinct and separate markets: the private market where the patient pays full cost of medication and the public market where the cost of drugs is paid for by the government. In France there is only one market where the patient pays for the drugs but the government pays part of the cost. This system allows for quicker introduction of innovative medicines to be available to the patient in an affordable way.

What opportunities does France offer to the Maltese entrepreneurs and vice-versa?

France is the sixth largest industrialised country with a population of 66 million people. By interacting with this large market, Maltese entrepreneurs might learn from the areas of French expertise.

Even though we’re a small nation we have come to expect services and products that are available in other larger countries to be available also locally. The market is a good representation of any market and may be useful to the French entrepreneurs to assess the success of a product before launching it in larger markets.

Marc Frasson BottonMarc Frasson Botton

Marc Frasson Botton

Director, LMT Trading Limited

Why did you decide to set up business in Malta?

Last year, Bureau Vallée, a chain of low-priced stationery stores, organised a conference in Malta to explore the potential that the island offers. Bureau Vallée CEO Bruno Peyroles invited those present to consider opening the first Bureau Vallée store in Malta.

The CEO’s invitation interested me and, after discussing it with my wife, we decided to go for it. So we left France and settled down in Malta. My wife and I had already been discussing opening a business abroad. At first, we were thinking of going to Canada but the opportunity in Malta was too good to pass.

Were you familiar with the local market?

I had already been to Malta on business so I was familiar with the market. Moreover, I was in charge of opening 30 Bureau Vallée stores so I knew what it takes to open one in Malta. A few months down the line, Bureau Vallée Malta – which is the 250th Bureau Vallée store in the world – is doing very well.

What advantages does the local market present?

The local typical office set-up is similar to that in France: we both use A4 paper, which means being able to offer the same products such as printers and envelopes.

Also, in our sector, the Maltese market is more advanced than the French one. Internet and smartphone penetration and social media usage are high while a lot of businesses operate in the cloud. All these factors translate into challenges to our sector. The Maltese market today is what the French one will be in five years. This enables us to anticipate and prepare for the challenges that the French market will face in the near future.

Moreover Malta’s strategic geographic location enables us to keep an eye on North Africa and the potential there.

Did you find it difficult to settle down in Malta?

I’m from Marseille, which means that we share a lot of things with Malta, from the architecture to the culture. This facilitated my settling down in Malta with my wife and three children, aged nine, six and two. Malta is also very safe and has a very good education system. The children immediately made a lot of friends and we were welcomed by everyone we met. Malta is not only a good place to do business but also to live.

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