Polish textile consortium grows one reel at time

Autor: Eva Orlowska

Dr. Adam Januszko presenting Litwin’s consortium, Poland-Silicon Valley Technology Symposium, Dec 2010

Savvy management with good old fashion work ethic turned Poland’s textile manufacturer/outdoors advertiser Litex Group into Europe’s industry leader. Now, its founder pushes new frontiers: multispectral camouflage, solar-powered fabrics and technology transfers through offset trade programs. Militaries around the world take notice.

Stanislaw Litwin started from scratch. In 1992 after getting burnt on steel trading in Australia, he returned to Poland with an idea to produce advertising parasols. First customer: Coca-Cola. Then, came Heineken, McDonald’s and hundreds other local and global brands. With sales offices now in Poland, Russia and Australia, Litex Group distributes in 42 countries, employs 1500 and offers a wide range of custom and finished products. The list is long: advertising tents, flags, banners, balloons, upholstery, roller blinds, clothing, camouflage, and hotel, restaurant and garden supplies.

Profits led to expansion and acquisitions. Today, Mr. Litwin’s portfolio has a yearly turnover of $110 million and includes Litex Group, Miranda, Effect System, Military Institute of Engineer Technology (WITI), and Warsaw-Stock-Exchange-traded Lubawa. Its facilities are equipped with the latest and most advanced machines to keep up with market trends, quality, customization and delivery expectations. Miranda alone produces 2 million running meters of fabric per month with the entire manufacturing cycle – weaving, knitting, printing, finishing – under one roof from start to finish.

It’s hard to beat Mr. Litwin’s workmanship quality. With International certificates like ISO 9001 and Oeko-Tex Standrard 100, his products are free of heavy metals, allergenic dyes and substances harmful to human health or the environment.  Hi-tech functions like stain, water, fire, bullet, bacteria or fungi resistance make them fit for children as well as the army, police and fire departments. His chemistry labs look like full-fledged Research & Development centers. And the relationship with WITI and other leading military research centers open doors to cutting-edge solutions like multispectral camouflage. The camouflage coating Berberys set A- protection from visual, thermal, near infrared and radar detection – was a winner of the prestigious International Defense Industry DEFENDER prize).

Militaries around the world take notice. Today, Mr. Litwin supplies reconnaissance equipment to the Polish, US, Swedish and Indian Departments of Defense and promises to provide soldiers with energy self-sufficiency by turning his fabrics into solar-powered batteries. What he needs is like-minded partners and smart technology transfers.  His flock can be found scouting new ideas at International Defense Industry Exhibition or, recently, at the Poland-Silicon Valley Technology Symposium (psvts.org).

Five sharp representatives of Mr. Litwin’s portfolio sat down for a chat at PSVTS last December in Palo Alto, California. Lukasz Litwin, the owner’s son, acted as a proxy.  The consortium attorney Marcin Kubica, president of Lubawa’s board Piotr Ostaszewski, Miranda’s key account manager Martin Gwizd, and WITI’’s head of new technology group Adam Januszko were all eager to talk about their growing companies.

“Following the accession of Poland to the European Union, we took advantage of the EU funding available to Poland for reconstruction, development and job creation,” said Mr. Kubica. “Step by step we modernized, expanded and diversified. In 2005, we purchased a state-of-the-art Swiss printing machine with 1.5 million Euro from the EU.   Other grants, investments and purchases followed. We are now a leader in our industry in Europe.“

When asked what they most wanted to achieve on their trade mission in the United States, Mr. Januszko summed it up in two words, “find offsets.” Offsets are programs of co-production and technology transfer used in aerospace and defense industry as part of a trade agreement.

The Litwin’s consortium hopes to get a piece of the $9 billion in indirect offsets stemming from Poland’s 2002 purchase of Lockheed Martin F-16s valued at  $3.5 billion.  Boeing’s offsets from LOT’s purchase of Boeing-787s have also been arranged. The trick is to find a US supplier and a project that is mutually beneficial to both sides.

Mr. Ostaszewski added, “It’s not venture capital but new programs and licenses that we came to PSVTS for. We’re hoping to make the right contacts through US-Polish Trade Council (usptc.org) here in Silicon Valley. With access to EU grants (money that doesn’t have to be repaid), Warsaw Stock Exchange shares (interest free equity), local government tax incentives, robust revenue stream and highly skilled workforce, we are an attractive partner for US companies seeking to fulfill offset obligations.”

Not much has been written before about the new Polish industrialist.  Mr. Litwin is known to shun media and publicity. What is his secret? “Patience, modesty and hard work,” replied Lukasz Litwin. “My father would prefer to invest in the success of young people through scholarships, internships and competitions rather than to seek a spotlight for himself. He engages his employees in innovation and part-ownership. His strategy seems to have worked so far.”


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