Business: Schumpeter: Mafia Management
The crime families of Naples are remarkably good at business.
An easy way to revive a flagging dinner party is to ask people to name their choice of the greatest crime show.
Is it “The Wire”, with its intricate portrait of Baltimore’s underworld? Or “The Sopranos”? Or perhaps “Breaking Bad”?
Now there is a new contender for the prize — “Gomorrah”, a drama about a collection of Italian gangs known as the Camorra that run a criminal empire from their base in Naples.
“Gomorrah” has been Italy’s most talked-about television series since its release two years ago.
It has been sold in 50 countries and the first episode premiered on America’s Sundance TV this week.
The series is far darker than the other three.
The gangsters aren’t lovable monsters like Tony Soprano, just monsters.
It is more realistic.
The author of the book behind the series, Roberto Saviano, has been in hiding since the Camorra issued a death warrant against him in 2006.
Filming of the series in gritty Neapolitan neighborhoods was interrupted by local violence.
One of the most striking things about the Camorra is how good they are at business.
They have taken over from the Sicilian Mafia as Italy’s foremost crime syndicate, partly owing to the Italian state’s move to clamp down on the Cosa Nostra from the mid-1990s.
The Camorra’s strategy of focusing on drugs, particularly cocaine, has also paid off.
The group runs much of Europe’s drug trade, including the continent’s largest open-air narcotics market in Secondigliano, in the north-east of Naples.
The syndicate appears to be organized like a typical corporation, with descending levels of power.
There is a top tier of senior managers who determine strategy and allocate resources; a second tier of middle managers who purchase and process the product; a third level of sales chiefs who co-ordinate distribution; and a fourth grade of street salesmen who deliver the product directly to customers.
The group employs all the usual supply- chain-management methods.
Its leaders source drugs from around the world (cocaine from Latin America, heroin from Afghanistan and hashish from north Africa) and make sure that alternatives are in place in case of disruption.
They do some things outstandingly well.
Operating outside Italy’s growth-killing labor rules, the Camorra can be fleet-footed.
A loose alliance of about 115 gangs, with around 500 members each and numerous associates, they can swiftly assemble a work-force of whatever size is needed, or shift from one line of business to another in a ?ash.
They are best-in-class when it comes to renewing talent and ideas.
Whenever entrenched managers balk at moving into new markets, as the older Camorra bosses did when drugs came along in the 1980s, they are replaced by a younger generation.
Paolo Di Lauro, the former head of one of the most powerful clans, and the model for Don Pietro in “Gomorrah”, is arguably one of the most innovative business people Italy has produced in recent years (since 2005 he has been held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison) .
As well as coordinating the drug trade with Colombia, he designed the group’s successful franchise system, in which it treats distributors like franchisees who are responsible for their own turf rather than as mere employees.