Featured case: SDF Internationalization: A Family Business,
from its Local Beginnings to International Expansion

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The case

whoWho – the protagonists

Mr. Francesco Carozza, Same Deutz-Fahr (SDF) Vice President.


SDF is a family-owned agricultural machinery company that has grown to be a giant over the years through internationalization.


20 years ago, SDF suddenly faced a number of international giants due to economic stagnation in the domestic market, with the likes of John Deere prospering from acquisitions.

SDF responded to this threat by initiating another intense period of cross-border growth in countries such as Germany, Croatia and China.


SDF was founded by brothers Francesco and Eugenio Cassani in Italy in 1942, with a focus on introducing technical innovations to both accelerate the mechanization of agriculture and increase its market share.

In 1960, SDF opened their first branch outside of Italy, and by 1998 two phases of internationalization had passed to establish SDF as the leader in the market.

But a third period of cross-border growth was needed to see off new rivals.


SDF started in the northern Italy town of Treviglio.

Key quote

“Francesco and Eugenio Cassani began the revolution in the world of agricultural machinery, introducing in 1927 one of the first tractors with a ‘pure’ diesel engine.” – The case explains how the seeds were planted for SDF to be formed 15 years later.

What next?

Mr. Carozza was looking at the post-acquisition performance results over the last three years, and pondering what indicators to use for a long-term strategic assessment of the company.

Was a purely economic analysis, as that submitted to him by his CFO, enough to understand what the path forward was?

Interested in finding out more?

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SDF Internationalization: A Family Business, From its Local Beginnings to International Expansion
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Teaching note
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The authors

Gabriella Lojacono and Marzia Sesini

Gabriella discusses selecting agriculture as a case subject and including questions at the end of a case.

Breaking new ground

Gabriella said: “We picked agriculture specifically because it is an atypical sector that has not been much explored in case studies. Hence, it had great potential, especially in light of SDF’s growth and evolution over the years.

Growing market

“From our perspective, the case represented a solid example of family business and international growth in an unusual context, which it is what we felt could increase interest in exploring it both from the teachers and students’ sides.”

Curious minds

Gabriella continued: “Like any other sector that is less popular than the ‘usual suspects’ are, it spurs students’ curiosity in understanding how it works and the complexities related to it; and how machinery and technology can make a difference in effective and efficient harvesting.

“They like the subject because they can relate to it, as agriculture has direct repercussions on their daily lives. Making the link between equipment production and the rest of the food value chain is a fundamental aspect to engage students in the topic.”

Picking field research

She added: “Producing a field research case makes it much more real and concrete for students to relate to. It is not just a bunch of name and companies. It is a specific company in an arena of many others, with a well-determined history, and particular issues a CEO had to overcome at a certain juncture in his career, to create value for the company.

“This, in a way, creates in the students a greater empathy for the situation and helps them better understand the key concepts the case is trying to teach. Also, it helps a lot in terms of data availability for discussion.” 


She commented: “Strategy is dynamic by nature, as is teaching with case studies. The two really complement each other very well: teaching dynamic concepts in a dynamic way makes it much easier and helps students grasp and retain the notions more deeply.”

The point of questioningThe point of questioning

Gabriella concluded: “Having questions at the end of the case study facilitates students in understanding what they are studying and why the topic is important to investigate. It points them in a direction and helps set the stage for discussion.

“Students can prepare the case at home, having a sense of where the discussion might start when the case will be discussed in class. This does not mean discussion will then be chained to those exact questions, but we felt this would help students navigate through the pre-reading and the concepts on their own a bit better.”

About the authors

Gabriella Lojacono is Associate Professor of International Management at Bocconi University, Dept. of Management & Technology, and Strategy & Entrepreneurship Faculty Deputy at SDA Bocconi School of Management.

Marzia Sesini is an Academic Fellow at Bocconi University, Dept. Management and Technology.


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