Fabio Rossi, Caleffi Italy export area manager together with his technical support manager, Stefano Carini, who provides technical assistance on demand for installations of Caleffi systems. Credit: Eamonn Ryan

Caleffi spreads its presence in Africa

Recently, two Caleffi Italy head office executives - Fabio Rossi, export area manager; and his technical support manager, Stefano Carini – paid a visit to South Africa to meet its new local general manager, Patrick Gordon, to discuss a future growth Africa strategy for 2020 and thereafter, and came to chat to Plumbing Africa.

By Eamonn Ryan

CalAfrica has for the past few years been introducing into South Africa the latest technologies available in Europe. Caleffi’s advanced technology products are renowned for robustness and longevity. Users are secure in the knowledge that once a system is installed, they can forget about it, explains Rossi. Such advanced products suit South Africa with its water shortages and will be in ever greater demand as people become more sensitised to their role in conserving water. Indeed, in terms of standards in South Africa such technology is a requirement in future building developments.

To better capture this market, CalAfrica is currently reinforcing its presence among South Africa’s plumbing and construction merchants and planning its expansion into Africa.

When Italian plumbing applications manufacturer Caleffi Hydronic Solutions started in the 1990s with its process of globalisation, the first country it looked at outside of Europe was South Africa, where it already had relationships – in this instance with Abraham Fullerton. The resulting CalAfrica became the exclusive distributor of Caleffi in Southern Africa.

Rossi says, “Ever since its establishment in 1961, Caleffi has sought a long-term strategy in order to be recognised in the market as a quality producer, recognising that if we compete only on price, we could not be competitive. We never enter a market to test the water and then leave – we’re here for the long term. Our differentiator is to provide a service supporting our products, including knowledge transfer and pre- and post-engineering, whether we are present in a market (such as in South Africa) or as an importer.

“Worldwide, our marketing strategy has been to approach designers to specify our products for new or existing installations – given we sell technical products which require explanation as to their use and advantages. We don’t simply sell a product, but rather a state-of-the-art system which requires an explanatory discussion. Designers often like to know how a product is used, not just locally, but where technological trends are going internationally from among the more than 90 countries where Caleffi is active. Therefore, Caleffi Italy will often back up CalAfrica’s educational activities. Once people are educated, we have globally received good feedback and positive perceptions, and it is the same here in South Africa,” says Rossi.

Alongside the designer segment, CalAfrica has been successful in garnering the insurance market, he says, and now adds the merchant segment to that strategy for penetrating the market.

He explains that the group’s strategy in each country depends on local conditions. In South Africa, there is a strong merchant presence, and this is Caleffi’s preferred route to market – but this is not the case in every country, says Rossi.

A further aspect of Caleffi’s strategy is the expansion into Africa. It has a presence in North Africa (which it serves from its French operation), Angola (served from Portugal), and Mauritius, while further planned expansion will be realised from South Africa. “We previously lacked the resources for a comprehensive strategy to open up Africa for Caleffi, and we are currently in the process of establishing contacts and learning about them via CalAfrica. We have an agreement for them to open up Botswana and Namibia. We haven’t rushed this due to our long-term strategy – we make sure of a country before entering, and then do so step by step, determining which products are suited to each market and what marketing strategy.

Another component of the strategy for South Africa, says Rossi, is to introduce new technologies and new products to the market to increase the technical level of the Caleffi systems themselves. This strategy also underpins the search for partners in Africa which have the appropriate level of expertise to understand and educate users on the technical aspects of the systems. “They are not easy to find. In other regions, such as the Middle and Far East, it took years of visiting and educating the local market for us to get established with a suitable partner – because the partner is representing our brand and strategy, and we have to have trust in them.

“This is an evolution of a strategy that Caleffi started 20 years ago,” he concludes.


Caleffi manufacturing site:

  • Approximately 90% of production is located at Fontaneto.
  • Fully automated systems.
  • Land area of 135 000m2
  • 112 machines, 36 of which are presses for plastic moulding, 60 assembling machines and 16 transfer processing machines.
  • 1 billion plastic components per year.
  • 90 employees on two shifts.
  • 70 million pieces assembled.

Caleffi headquarters:

  • Caleffi HQ spans a land area of 140 000m2 of which almost 90 000m2 is covered.
  • The facility handles more than 350 million machined parts.
  • The facility produces approximately 20 million finished pieces a year.
  • 400 employees work at Caleffi HQ, working over two shifts.
  • Caleffi HQ is home to the CUBOROSSO research and development centre and the MAV, the automated vertical warehouse. 



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