We spoke to Vladimir Sushkov, CEO of Kirzhach Plywood Factory, internationally renowned manufacturers of high-quality birch veneer
Please tell us about the history of your company, how you started the business and at what stage you are now.
Our company "Kirzhach Plywood Mill" was established in April 2017. The main factor of our success was that the summer of 2017 was very rainy in Russia, and consequently, demand for veneer and plywood products increased significantly creating a shortage of raw materials. We found a reliable partner thanks to which we gained a leading position in the market in a short period of time and started producing large volumes. However, in 2018, the climate conditions facilitated extensive production of raw materials, which created strong competition for us. Due to the saturation of the Russian market, we decided to actively export. We had already worked a little abroad, but it was from 2018 that we concluded contracts with Polish, Lithuanian and Italian companies. The Vladimir Region Export Support Centre actively helped us to do this: participating in exhibitions, arranging meetings.
It was thanks to the Centre that we learned about the EUROPAGES website and we listed our company in 2019. We acquired 3 partners from the Baltic and Serbian region: not many, but very stable partners with which we have long-term business relations and regular monthly orders for an average of 7,000 euros. We conclude contracts with them 2-3 months in advance.
One partner is self-registered on EUROPAGES, the other two found us using Google search, then direct access via EUROPAGES.
In 2020 we completely changed our business and started making products exclusively for export to furniture companies. We modernised our production to better meet international challenges and export specialised veneers.
What products do you offer on the international market?
In addition to specialized veneers, we supply veneers for which demand has particularly increased in 2020. We have many orders from Poland. Plywood used to be among the products we offer, but now we have more and more requests, which are also thanks to Europages and the excellent visibility they bring us.
Who are your main customers and what do they value when working with you?
They value our flexibility in order processing. We adapt quickly to changes in our customers' planning. We have a stable pricing policy which does not change according to the market situation. Our prices have not changed since 2018, which our customers appreciate very much.
Do you have international certificates?
We are a supplier of regulated wood, and we hold the FC Control Woods certificate - the European certificate obtained through the Export Support Centre. It has allowed us to enter the Scandinavian market. For example, we signed a contract with a Swedish company thanks to this certification.
What role do global and European markets play in your company's international development and business growth? What is the ratio between international and Russian markets in your company's business?
95% of our market is international. We work with only one plant in Russia, and in general the entire focus is on exporting, the reason for which EUROPAGES plays a key role!
What is your strategy for further growth?
Between 2021 and 2022, we plan to expand our production range and start producing furniture parts. This will also be strictly B2B with a focus on European end product manufacturers. In terms of export locations, the Scandinavian market is of particular interest to us, where we are ready to compete with existing Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) suppliers.
What do you like about the Visable sourcing platform, EUROPAGES?
Many things! One of the great advantages is that when a request comes in, we receive notification by 3 linked emails, enabling us to handle the lead quickly and therefore increase the lead conversion rate.
What advice would you give to companies entering the global market?
First of all, I would advise them to register the company on EUROPAGES! This was especially important in 2020. Not only does EUROPAGES allow you to make contact with prospects, but also to verify their identity. At EUROPAGES, a VAT number is mandatory for European companies, which we can verify. This is extremely important and allows us to understand what the company is like. Without it, it is impossible to do business online.
Of course, one must make the most of the platform's services: include the maximum amount of information, maximum content, documents, products. This helps in both cases: when buyers are looking for suppliers and when they are looking for partners to do business online.
In addition, before starting your exports, you have to take into account your production and logistics capacity. When you create your profile on EUROPAGES in several languages with the aim to ofer your products to various regions of the world, you should be confident with the logistics processes.
What is extremely important is the communication activity and handling leads! Proactivity in responding to requests and in elaborating each message, as well as searching for potential customers using the EUROPAGES state-of-the-art search functionalities. We were even able to gain some customers who were not initially specifically interested in our products, but we still responded to them and engaged a dialogue. As a result, we found common ground and the opportunity to work together, concluding very valuable contracts.
Sitting on the side and waiting for contracts inactively will not bring results. You have to work with the Visable platforms, use them to the maximum!