How it all began
Promising ideas are the driving force behind social development. They provide motivation and guidance, and tap undreamed-of potential. The beginnings of Arvato can be traced back to one such visionary idea: a consistent focus on how a company can benefit its customers!
The history of Arvato began over 175 years ago, when Carl Bertelsmann opened a lithographic printing shop in the East Westphalian town of Gütersloh. This was the first step in the development of a corporate division that today accounts for more Bertelsmann employees than any other. The business began by printing and shipping books and other printed materials for Bertelsmann’s publishing companies, then expanded to provide services for external customers. This marked the birth of Arvato, which subsequently grew larger, became involved in new industries, developed innovative products and expanded into other countries and continents − until it became what it is today: a unique international joint service provider that occupies a leading position in numerous market segments and employs over 66,400 people worldwide.
One of the biggest transactions in corporate history: Arvato acquired major parts of the Netrada group, a leading e-commerce and logistics provider for the fashion industry. In doing so, Arvato further strengthened its e-commerce growth platform. Through the merger, one of Europe’s leading providers of integrated e-commerce services was born.
As Gothia and Arvato Infoscore joined forces, Arvato moved up the ladder to rank third in Europe in the fast-growing market for financial services. This new Arvato unit, Arvato Financial Solutions, will drive forward the internationalization of the business information and financial services divisions and puts Arvato in the position to offer customers Europe-wide payment management solutions.
Arvato has consolidated its position in China as the leading outsourcing provider in the telecoms industry. The company delivered its 100 millionth cell phone in August, which was made possible through the development of logistics processes and a nationwide distribution network.
Arvato was reorganized under the direction of CEO Rolf Buch. The company’s structures were sharpened and simplified, under Arvato’s motto “from product to solution.” Groups of companies that had served comparable customers and markets in the past were strategically combined into clearly defined units.
A new logistics center was opened in Shenzhen in cooperation with the local mobile services providers Telling Group and Sinomaster Group. The objective: to create a nationwide distribution and transport network for the mobile telephone and high-tech industry. Arvato has been active in the Chinese market since 2001.
Arvato introduced the new multipartner loyalty card DeutschlandCard to the market in early March. In only 18 months, the team created the customer loyalty program with six partner companies and several thousand stores and branches.
With the purchase of Qualytel S.A., Spain’s largest independent provider of call center services, Arvato further expanded its international service center network. Seven locations and 6,000 employees were taken over.
Arvato storage media and several units of Arvato services were combined to form the Arvato digital services business unit. Arvato reorganized its storage media business, as international customers in the video, audio, games and IT/technology industries were interested in purchasing more integrated service packages.
arvato’s activities in the areas of integrated data, information and accounts receivable management merged with the Infoscore group in Baden Baden. The new joint enterprise was now among the leading financial service providers in Europe.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council in England decided to enter into a public-private partnership with Arvato, with Arvato providing services for the local administration. Under this partnership, Arvato took over some 500 existing employees.
The appointment of Hartmut Ostrowski as chairman and CEO was accompanied by Arvato’s reorganization into five business units: Arvato storage media, Arvato print, Arvato direct services, Arvato logistic services and Arvato systems.
Arvato entered the healthcare market under the name Arvato services healthcare. As an internationally active outsourcing partner to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, it assumed responsibility for all supply chain, customer relationship and financial processes.
The Druck und Industrie (printing and industry) division was renamed Bertelsmann Arvato. The name reflects the growing importance of the service business for the group as a whole.
Considerable demand for financial services led to further specialization: The business focused on relieving companies of administrative responsibilities, safeguarding liquidity and providing professional risk management, and continues to do so today.
As the new operating system Windows 95 was introduced, global software manufacturer Microsoft decided to launch a cooperative venture with Bertelsmann Marketing Service. The joint project proved successful and became the basis for a long-term service partnership.
The first distribution center in the Polish city of Poznan marked the beginning of the internationalization of Arvato’s service business. Today, Arvato Poland ranks number one in the Polish market in the mail order business, multilingual service center support and customer loyalty programs for petroleum companies.
Lufthansa’s “Miles & More” was the first customer loyalty program. Customer care and retention services have steadily expanded since that time. New business areas emerged, such as call center services.
In November, the first mobile telephone was rolled out in Versmold (a district of Gütersloh) on behalf of the mobile services division of Mannesmann, later Vodafone. It was the beginning of an impressive success story.
In the printing sector, equity holdings were acquired, new companies were founded and existing businesses were taken over in the United States, Spain, South America and East Germany.
This was the forerunner of what is now known as AZ Direct. It subsequently expanded to include lettershop activities and marketing logistics.
This new company was responsible for shipping the company’s own products to bookstores and club branches, but its services were also made available to the external market. In 1960, Olms Verlag became the first external publishing company to delegate responsibility for deliveries to Kommissionshaus Buch und Ton. It was the beginning of a new era: providing services for other companies.
Lesering was created to market books directly to readers. Did you know that Lesering was the first business to offer the services that are now provided by Arvato? It was here that ideas relating to member support, music, address management, technology and logistics were tested and put into practice.
Reinhard Mohn founded a new publishing and printing company after its predecessor had been shut down for two years. In his later years, he created Bertelsmann’s unique corporate culture, which still characterizes Arvato today: an emphasis on partnership, trust in the company’s employees, a consistent customer focus, and much more.
Eleven years earlier, Carl Bertelsmann (1791–1850) had opened a lithographic printing shop in Gütersloh. The company initially published Christian materials in the Protestant tradition; fiction was added only much later.