An interview with Angelica Krystle Donati, CEO at Donati Immobiliare Group and Head of Business Development at Donati S.p.A
Angelica Krystle Donati is Head of Business Development at Donati S.p.A, an Italian construction company that has been working in the field of civil construction, infrastructure works and historical building restoration for over 40 years. In 2012, the young entrepreneur founded Donati Immobiliare Group, an international property development firm operating in Italy, the UK and the US, of which she is currently CEO. Angelica is Vice President of ANCE Giovani and President of ANCE Giovani Lazio, an association that represents the construction industry in Italy. As an advocate on the topics of digital transformation and property technology (proptech), Angelica is a regular contributor to both Forbes and Property Week. The European caught up with Angelica to discuss the pandemic, proptech and the year ahead.
How has the construction industry responded to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Angelica Krystle Donati: The industry was certainly more fortunate than other sectors during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the 2020 year-end data recorded a 10% loss for the sector, highlighting the impact was still significant. This is on top of an economic crisis, which for Italy at least, has been going on for over a decade, causing a 33% reduction in turnover for the sector, with thousands of businesses forced to close, and 600,000 jobs losses over the past 12 years. As countries across the globe introduced lockdowns and other restrictions, the pace of change for contractors has been extreme, with many needing to change their ways of working overnight. However, construction firms are used to adapting quickly and implementing various continuity strategies.
Discuss the rising importance of proptech and how it has helped in the current situation.
While Covid-19 caused an abrupt stop to global activity, it also helped trigger rapid changes and accelerated the adoption of new technologies. Construction and real estate have traditionally been slow to realise the potential opportunities technology has to offer, and real progress in adaptation and advancement has been slow.
During the pandemic, proptech has helped real estate firms be more efficient by facilitating accurate remote management. It also helped keep stakeholders in both the commercial and residential property sectors safer. In the construction sector, project management and site safety tech helped not only simplify the on-site construction process, but helped make it safer, as greater control of the process enabled better social distancing.
Is the construction industry in a position to weather further market turbulence in the short- to medium-term?
The sector has already shown efficiency, adaptability and resilience during a period of immense uncertainty. It is important that we remember how essential innovation is in preparing for unexpected events and the use of technology in construction needs to become the norm as opposed to the exception, even when we return to a more normal way of working.
What is in store for proptech in 2021?
This year will be challenging, but also a year of change and renewal. Real estate was forced to embrace innovation once and for all in 2020, and this year will only serve to cement this shift.
Proptech will become increasingly strategic, as technology which enables people to work flexibly and efficiently will be a winner. It’s becoming clear that sustainability must be at the heart of the construction sector. It must become the steer for better corporate practices as climate change becomes an ever more pressing issue. Fintech and proptech will also likely intersect ever more, and we can expect venture capital investment to increase.
How do you feel the construction industry is responding to the challenge of climate change?
I am a big advocate of sustainable construction and green innovation, which I consider fundamental to respond to the evolving needs of the construction market. Given that the construction sector is thought to be responsible for over a third of global carbon emissions, it is vital that we work together to find cleaner and more sustainable ways of building.
Construction is one of those industries that historically hasn’t evolved much. It is one of the most laggard in terms of investment into research and development, which has translated into sluggish global growth over the past 50 years. So if the industry is at a transitional stage, then it’s the ideal opportunity to look at our climate responsibilities and innovate in this area.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your personal objectives?
As always, one of my goals for the year ahead is working on my personal growth, and to continue sharing my passion and knowledge for innovation, proptech and contech. Youth and female empowerment are very close to my heart. I want to encourage young people in general, and young women specifically, to consider a career in construction.
Construction is an ageing sector and it is every industry player’s duty to attract new talent to the space. As we evolve and become more innovative, I hope more young leaders will emerge in the space. I would encourage young entrepreneurs wishing to enter construction or real estate to think disruptively. Although they are traditional sectors, there is a definite opportunity for innovators to take up market share.