Massimo Minneci has been in Malaysia for 18 years, first working as a manager in the rubber and marble industries, then running his own food business
IT HAS been 18 years since Massimo Minneci said yes to a job offer that sent him halfway across the world from his native country of Italy.
The 44-year-old from Rome came at a time when the Petronas Twin Towers was not yet built and he could only buy Italian ingredients were sold only at one shopping centre in town.
But Minneci saw the offer as a great opportunity as Malaysia’s economy was flying high.
Not only was his judgment proven right, soon after, things kept getting better.
“When I first arrived here, I was really amazed by the close friendship shared by Malaysians of different ethnicities. To me, that is this country’s biggest attraction,” he said.
The islands, outdoor activities and climate keep him happy too.
It is also a blessing that Italian food products are easily available now to satisfy his number one passion, which is cooking.
He cooks only Italian food despite discovering the colourful array of gastronomical treats in Malaysia.
“I guess I should leave the dishes to the ones who know them best. Malaysian delights should be handled by Malaysians,” he said with a smile.
Having worked as a manager for several companies in the rubber and marble industries, Minneci decided to venture into his own business about 10 years ago.
He now runs three companies that deal mainly with food and beverage.
One of them brings in traditional Italian ice-cream and has eight stores throughout the country.
“Malaysia has summer all year round, so I thought gelato will be popular here,” he said, adding that the response had been encouraging.
Minneci’s instincts were proven right again as with several other brands entered the Italian ice-cream scene in Malaysia.
He also tries to bring the Italian experience to Malaysians as much as possible by introducing snacks and beverages.
To him, establishing a business in Malaysia is relatively easy as there is not much bureaucracy.
“Of course, the systems of different countries have their strengths and weaknesses but after weighing both, Malaysia is still my choice,” he said.
The only thing is he sometimes finds it hard to read local minds as Asians in general are not as straightforward as Europeans.
“I guess they do not want to disappoint the other party but I think it is easier to just bring up the disagreement and we discuss about it.
“This is one cultural difference that I have not got used to,” he said.
Nevertheless, Malaysia is still the ideal base and only place of his business.
In recent years, he has also received many requests from Italians to either work or run a business in Malaysia.
His advice for Italians who want to work and live in Malaysia is: Learn how to speak English and to accept the cuisine that is very different from theirs.