07 2018 | TIME OUT

 11 Its the contrasts of hyper-modern and classic architecture that make Milan such an interesting place. © Shutterstock

Millennial Milano

Ancient buildings, narrow streets, scorching sunshine and some pasta: Visitors looking for clichés will definitely find them even in Milan. But then they’d miss what this cutting-edge metropolis close to the Alps is all about.

Pretty hectic here! Anyone leaving the gate in Linate, one of three airports in the 1.4 million metropolis of Milan, immediately realizes that they have landed in the heart of Italian business acumen. Managers in Armani jackets scramble through groups of tourists, students tug home-grown food in oversized trolleys through the mirror-smooth corridors, and much further along the body that belongs to the face of the latest edition of Vogue weaves through one of the automatic doors. Was it really her? 

There is no time for reflection or daydreaming in the country’s second-largest city. In this metropolitan region in the Po Valley at the foot of the Alps, seven million people ensure that the economy is booming like nowhere else in Italy. Milan has been enjoying a renaissance since the Milan 2015 Expo. There is a spirit of optimism. This is down to the projects like M4, worth billions. With the new subway line, which will cross the city in the east-west direction for 15 kilometers, it will take just 14 minutes from Linate Airport to Piazza Babila in the heart of the city.

Sights to see

There, at the gateway to shopping streets and sights, we see a side of Milan that for many years was the reason for its bad reputation: gray facades, sober ­architecture and very little charm. For many decades, the capital of Lombardy was considered the extended workbench of Italy, especially in the 50s and 60s, when large industrial enterprises settled here and gave rise to huge industrial areas, working class districts and a lot of functional architecture. But it is exactly this past that Milan today sees as a great new opportunity for the future. 

The city can now offer space for new ideas and daring architecture close to the city center. Visitors to Milan will see one example of this as they stroll through the Piazza Babila via Corso Vittorio Emanuele II to the ­cathedral. A short detour to the right in the Via S. ­Paolo and after a few meters you can marvel at a major Apple project on the Piazza del Liberty, where the US company is currently working with renowned architect Norman Foster to design one of its largest shops world­wide. It is designed as a kind of amphitheater with two huge waterfalls that serve as a meeting place for the Milanese. “I’m sure the project will be a great success for Apple and modern Milan,” says Marco Mandelli, Paysafe’s Country Consultant, after arranging a lunch meeting: “The population is increasing and especially the millennials are drawn to the magic of Milan. It is believed that 46,000 newcomers have arrived in the last year and a half alone.”

paysafecard perspective

»Our distribution network is THE key factor.«

Marco MandelliPaysafe Country Consultant, Milan


Marco Mandelli tells PIN, why Italy is one of paysafecard’s most successful markets..

paysafecard has been doing extremly well in Italy, Marco. What are the reasons for the enormous growth rates? 
I think there are many factors. Italy is a “cash-based society” with 86% cash transactions in 2017. And Italians are very concerned about online fraud, as well. On top of that paysafecard is the right instrument for microtransactions (the average is 20 €), which makes it the ideal choice for millennials who don’t have credit cards. Another KEY Factor is the distribution network: Thanks to over 70,000 POS, if you need a ticket, you can find one just around the corner.

Speaking of POS: What was your most important agree­ment with a distributor?
In Italy there are two big players who represent around 90% of our turnover. I started with the little ones first, however. Their success made the two big distributors go live with us as a consequence. Most of our POS are at bars or tobacco shops now, where you take a coffee, top up your phone and play Lotto or other InstantWin games. It’s very comfortable to buy a paysafecard there, because they are a daily one stop shop for Italians.

How is the legal situation for gambling in Italy? 
Sports betting is fully regulated in Italy and, from July on, all deposits on betting websites must come from identified payment instruments. This is the reason why “my paysafecard” becomes mandatory from July. For merchants this has many advantages. The payment process is greatly simplified, for example.

What can you say about Online Games in Italy? Will this market also see some growth?
Yes, new data tells us, that this sector is growing in Italy. There are about 1,200,000 enthusiasts, not only millenials but also people over 40. And the competitions held in 2017 have actually tripled compared to 2015. It is now a trend among Top Football Clubs to hire a Fifa player as an official competitor. That will help a lot.

Milan is a city of fashion. Do you think Italians will use Paysafecash in this vertical?
 I know there are a lot of serial fashion victims in Italy, believe me! (laughs) Some of them will go windowshopping and then start to compare prices online to save some money when actually buying.  So, yes, Paysafecash is a perfect solution for these consumers. But it also has a great potential in e-Commerce in general, not only in fashion!

No wonder: it is home to eight of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Italy, with a total of some 250,000 students. Their desire for change makes Milan the most progressive city in the country. For example, there are five competing car-sharing providers with 13,000 rents per day, as well as 280 bicycle stations with around 20,000 users. This would be unthink­able in Rome or Naples. Then there is also the wealth of start-ups. In 2016 alone, 24,000 new companies were registered in the Milan Chamber of Commerce. They were followed by many large corporations. Microsoft, Google or Starbucks are just a few of these. That’s why the Financial Times ranked the city as one of those with the most innovative companies after London and Paris. 

“This openness to innovation in Milan has helped me greatly to deal with our market entry with paysafecard in Italy since 2009,” says Marco Mandelli over lunch at Peck’s Italian Bar, one of the culinary classics that highlight the city’s high-end dining market. Since then, the 52-year-old has ensured that ­paysafecard has become a well-known brand in Italy and that transaction volumes continue to rise strongly and steadily after the switch to “my paysafecard” in June. “It’s like it is in­Greece: Italians love cash. They still class it as one of the safest ways to pay. I am sure that this is why Paysafecash will be a huge success in this country,” emphasizing what he has said as he orders pasta a la calamarata with zucchini flowers. Around him, the elite of the city establishment, among them many bankers, media people and designers, are served their business lunches in the modern, stylish ­setting. Milan is the financial, cultural and media ­capital of Italy. The country’s main stock exchange is headquartered here, and television stations RAI, Mediaset and Sky Italia are moving their main offices into the office towers of Rome’s up-and-coming rival. 

Places to go

Before Marco launches the cultural part of the meet­ing for dessert, he heads for a typical Italian Tabacchi. Conveniently, the Tabaccheria Del Domm is directly opposite the third-largest sacred building in the world. It becomes clear why sales of paysafecard in Italy have grown so much in recent years. The shop itself is small, but a pensioner is just buying one of Italy’s most popular tickets for the SuperEnalotto. “We have over 70,000 points of sale for paysafecard in Italy. And this is one of them.” Marco is proud of what has been achieved in the last 10 years: “Our coverage is phenomenal. Any Italian can charge his “my paysafecard” account right around the corner if he wants.”

The reason for this is a deal with Sisal, a group of ­companies that has been offering lotteries such as SuperEnalotto, SiVindeTutto or Euro Jackpot since 1946 and that has more than 45,000 points of sale. According to Marco, this network will also form the basis for the success of Paysafecash.

After the short detour, we head to the sprawling ­square in front of Milan Cathedral. The construction of this outstand­ing example of Italian architecture of the late Middle Ages began in 1386 as a Gothic cathedral of the Archbishopric of Milan but was not completed until 1965. Then we walk in the footsteps of so many tourists of ­Milan: The obligatory walk through the Galleria­Vittorio­Emanuele II, the oldest covered shopping­arcade in the world, a soundcheck in the famous opera house La Scala and a visit to the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie with its “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. 

Fashion & Design Capital

If you want to feel the real pulse of the city, you are best advised to stroll along the Via Monte Napoleone, where the high-end boutiques of the star designers glitter, each striving to outshine the other. After all, Milan is one of the most important fashion capitals in the world. Valentino, Gucci, Versace, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana all have their headquarters in the city. “For the average consumer, of course, the prices here are far too high, but the Italians generally spend a lot on fashion. Especially online! That’s why I see great potential for Paysafecash in e-Commerce,” says Marco in front of one of the skilfully designed shop windows. A quick google of the data from the office of sta­t­­istics confirms his assumption: Overall, Italians will spend US$15.17 billion on e-Commerce in 2018, including US$4.75 billion in the fashion segment. Experts also believe that these expenditures will rise by about 8.8 % annually by 2022.

Of course, not only fashion is bought online in Italy, but also games and bets. For us, this is one of the most important directions for paysafecard, because there is a clear legal framework with appropriate licenses for ­international merchants," explains Marco. "The bulk of our transactions comes from sports betting and gamb­l­ing," he says, having his wonderfully crimson crema espresso in a cafe in the old working-class district of Isola, while on the TV a documentary about the two top clubs Inter and AC Milan provides a forum for ­discussion among the football and competition fans.The Paysafe Country Consultant drove his guest out of the ancient center at this point to show him the Milan of the future: In Porta Nuova or City Life, one finds completely new neighborhoods where the most modern infrastructure and skyscrapers of such famous archi­tects as Zaha Hadid or Stefano Boeri are being built. They are springing up in the old industrial areas and are gradually reshaping the city's identity. Where once the chimneys smoked, now fiber optic cablesglow. Amazon and Google have their offices in the new neighborhoods, but there is also an ever-ex­pan­ding Games Developer scene. There are around 30 small suppliers, but also branches of well-known companies such as Ubisoft, which  developed its hit "Mario and Rabbids" in Milan. The dynamics the games industry developed in Italy is showcased at the Milan Games Week in October. Back in 2011, it was more of a niche event with around 20,000 ­visitors. In 2017 the event already welcomed 150,000 gamers and developers, showing that computer games in Italy still have a great future ahead.

"In this segment, we also expect even more growth for paysafecard," says Marco at dinner in the Tokuyoshi, a restaurant where Japanese cuisine meets Italian classics." 17 million people played computers at least once last year. I am sure there will be more. Especially if other cities in Italy approach modernization with the same dedication as Milan."