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A whirlwind decade for Vajda

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A whirlwind decade for Vajda

March 21, 2010 - 16:00

BRUSSELS, March 22, 2010 (RISI) -Ten years can be a long time in tissue converting. Attila Vajda started Vajda Papir with his wife Szilvia Csata Vajdáné in 1999. The reason for singling out the tissue industry for their attention was simple: here were products which people use every day. Growth in the domestic market was practically assured. The couple simply reckoned they could do something different. "I was involved in trading and forwarding, importing mainly from Turkey, and spotted that there was an opportunity in value-added tissue products in central Europe," says Vajda. We started with entry-level tissue but always intended to move upmarket. We could see that the market needed quality."

They were clearly on to a good idea: just over 10 years later, and with a workforce expanded from the original four to 70, it would appear that they backed the right industry, or to be more accurate, they chose the right strategy for the industry they in which they chose to invest. Attila Vajda is president of the company, while Szilvia Csata Vajdáné is financial controller.

Vajda Papir’s newest premises, where its new converting line is housed

New line, new factory

Vajda Papir now operates out of three premises. One was outgrown and now acts as a buffer warehouse. Another is in a prison - there are two benefits of this, says Vajda: "We perform a useful social function, and it makes for good and mutually helpful relations with the state." The third premises is the impressive new building which houses the company's recently started-up Futura converting line.

The Futura line has given Vajda Papir the capacity and flexibility to become Hungary’s number one converter

The installation of the Futura line in 2008 was a milestone for Vajda Papir, as the 30% increase in capacity it brought established the company as Hungary's number one converter, with some 40,000 tonnes produced in 2009 and a turnover of Euro 45 million. This investment was also key to Vajda Papir's continuing competitiveness. "Futura came highly recommended," says Vajda. "It has proved to be not only the technology leader but a company which keeps its promises - after sales service has been perfect. The increase in productivity has enabled us both to achieve our volume ambitions and increase profitability."

Vajda Papir president Attila Vajda (left) with Futura sales manager Carlo Berti

Flexibility is the key

It is easy to write off the tissue industry as commodity based, because at a certain level tissue is indeed bought and sold as a commodity. But this obscures the seemingly limitless sizes, qualities, colors and other variations which private label buyers require to differentiate their offering, and to satisfy their customers' demands. This is why the rate at which operators can change from one tissue variation to another is almost as important as the basic speed of the line. In Vajda Papir's case, a new line was significant not just for its ability to produce the existing product range more efficiently, it was also a means to increase the choice the company could offer, and this was fundamental to the choice of technology.

This latest investment for Vajda Papir is very much about bringing a long-held vision to reality, too, as Vajda had always intended to be an added-value supplier. Initially it had limited control over the products it sold, as it was bought in from other converters - mainly from Italy. Over the years, Vajda has taken control of its product, and now it offers a full range of soft toilet tissue, décor embossed towel, facial-tissue and napkins in one- to five-ply. The company sells his own brand and private label and exports 60% of what it converts, all over Europe. The branded tissue which it produces is sold mainly to the Hungarian market. The brands with which Vajda Papir is most closely associated are Lilla, Daisy and Sindy - from budget to premium in that order.

With its new capabilities both in terms both of volume and product features, Vajda Papir is in a position to supply any market, logistics permitting, particularly as it can boast ISO 9001 and 14001, and Nordic Swan Eco-Label accreditation,

The Futura converting line at Vajda Papir: “The increase in productivity has enabled us both to achieve our volume ambitions and increase profitability”

Delegation and kickboxing

So what makes Vajda Papir tick? Unsurprisingly you need to meet the company's eponymous president for the answer to this question. Attila Vajda is the first to admit that during most of the company's history, he has been reluctant to relinquish control of the tiller. Asked what he would have changed in the 10 years since Vajda was launched, he says, "Delegation. Vajda used to be a one-man show and this was not right. Over the past two years this has changed with far more individual responsibility."

So how does this work in practice? Vajda: "We discuss success and failure - I always support my team and always have done. If something is wrong, the person in charge needs to come up with a solution. Don't come to me empty handed when there is a problem! People take responsibility for what they do now to a much greater extent. We are a young company and everybody is eager for success. Growth and performance provide the motivation, and when we have done well, we celebrate."

Attila Vajda's personal philosophy remains important for the company's success, even if he has embraced the idea of delegation. He is keen on the analogy of successful business with kick-boxing. "It's all about discipline, which is key to reaching your goals. I mention kick-boxing, because my kids do it, but as a company we engage in numerous activities to build team spirit, and allow us to get to know each other better."

Any notion that "kick boxing" is short hand for "beat the hell out of your competitors" is off target, because Vajda actually believes that if you focus too much on your competitors, you just end up making the same mistakes as them: "That's why we never get involved in joint ventures - we have had many opportunities but it would mean sharing our skills and profits and always have somebody knocking from behind," he says.

Sindy is Vajda Papir’s premium brand

So where does Vajda Papir go from here? The president explains: "Other than growth generally, we are focusing more and more on environmental products and even more to have a really environmental production site. We purchase a lot of virgin fiber jumbo rolls from FSC and PEFC certified suppliers, and 30% of our output is based on recycled fiber. Increased traceability and quality has allowed us to expand into more countries, so we continue to focus on both areas. We offer a very good price/quality balance and future investments will enhance this further. We would also like to develop more business with the multi-national hypermarket chains."

And how about a tissue machine, to produce its own jumbo rolls? "We have the room," says Vajda. "It's a possibility."

Jonathan Robertsis a communications consultant to the pulp and paper industry and is a partner in Pryor Roberts Communications (