Dobrowolski has already conquered the West and the East. Now it is time to expand northwards and southwards. The company will focus on Scandinavia, Austria and Switzerland. The first steps will be taken towards Rovaniemi.
Dobrowolski is to celebrate its 60th Anniversary next year, but this jubilee is only a historical one. The production of utility equipment and steel structures belongs in the past. Damian Dobrowolski – the company’s current President – concentrates on specialized automotive equipment: airport, utility and military vehicles – and he is continuously expanding the range of products offered.
— From the moment of company’s purchase, we had been seeking to find a market niche. That is why we entered the industry of specialized, technically advanced vehicles. We manufacture everything on our own. We also have well-developed design offices: one in Wschowa, one in Łódź — says the President of Dobrowolski, company operating under this brand since 1998.
At the beginning of its operations under the new brand, the company focused on the Polish market, which was not an easy one in terms of specialized equipment. The decision about its international expansion was a must. The first set targets were Western countries – mainly Germany.
— Today, we know that it was a wise choice, but eight years ago, when we took the decision on international expansion, it was not so simple. We did not take account of the loyalty of western people to their national production. The Germans are particularly attached to their own engineering solutions – as are the Italians and the French. I call it a local automotive patriotism — Damian Dobrowolski laughs.
— The presentation of our vehicles at the fair in Germany did not entail any spectacular effects, but with hindsight, I can see that it had been a reasonable thing to do as it later translated to many contacts. Our company started to attract not only the customers, but also candidates for equipment distributors. It turned out, that even in an extremely demanding market, the economy, i.e. best value for money for products offered, prevails — recalls Damian Dobrowolski.
The manufacturer of specialized equipment had slowly become an exporter. Today we already have our regular customers in Germany. And not only in Germany. Actions taken in the East and in the South: in Romania, Russia and Ukraine have also produced many contracts.
— The Ukrainian market had looked really promising within several months before the Ukraine’s Maidan protests. Similarly to the Russian market. However, in other Eastern countries we still have good relationships. We recently sent an airport sweeper to Armenia, which will operate in Yerewan. Romania is also a very interesting market for specialized vehicles. A country comparable to Poland in terms of population, but having no manufacturer of this kind of equipment. The airport in Bucharest uses our vehicles — says the President of Dobrowolski.
He also admits that the sales in these regions is easier, as in countries such as Armenia or Kazakhstan, the consumers consider Polish products to be European.
The sales of specialized equipment is much more difficult than of other products enjoying success outside Poland. It involves not only competing with the largest manufacturers, but also providing maintenance services which are of vital importance for our prospect business partners. The sales chain for vehicles must be developed along with the maintenance chain.
— Tenacity is the key to success. As is sending demo vehicles to fairs and shows. When business partners see, test and learn about the state-of-the-art technical solutions, they want to use our equipment — assures Damian Dobrowolski, for whom the East and the West is still not enough.
The company intends to continue strengthening its brand in Germany, but it wants to go further. The next targets are Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia, i.e. countries characterised by long winters, lots of snow and high standard of road and airport maintenance.
— We are currently working on a new, innovative design of airport sweeper. The prototype is to be tested on the runway in the Rovaniemi airport in Northern Finland — announces Damian Dobrowolski.
Design and construction works are constant and uninterrupted, as the competition from large Western companies with extensive engineering background is still severe.
— But we succeed – not only thanks to value for money, but also – our flexibility. We try to respond to all customer needs faster. We think outside the box. Each product may be tailored as requested. This is our strength. Owing to this, we can face the larger and the wealthier — assures Damian Dobrowolski.
Establishing position in international markets, especially in the case of technologically advanced products, is a long-term process.
— When you buy a vehicle worth EUR 0.5 million, everyone pay attention to the brand. And it is not easy to create a brand for technologically advanced equipment. Particularly when you compete with concerns having several-dozens of years of experience — says Damian Dobrowolski.
The origin of products may still pose a problem for many exporters. The label “Made in Poland” does not attract customers in the automotive industry. In this industry, it is the Germans that count – similarly to the position of Italians in fashion. Poland has not yet reached the position of manufacturer of technologically advanced equipment. Thus, it is difficult for particular companies to enter and succeed in international arena.
— We still aim at promoting our products at fairs. We concentrate mainly on the German IFAT and Inter Airport Europe, as it is visited by everyone: delegations from the US, Asia, Australia and Russia. This is the biggest fair in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. We also cooperate with our dealers. We try to support them in organising local shows. We provide them with vehicles, which may be presented to final customers. Dealers present our vehicles under our logo in smaller fairs — says Damian Dobrowolski.
When asked about the vehicle being a source of his pride, without hesitation he answers – each and every unit manufactured at our plant. Our winter equipment proves its quality in the most demanding weather conditions. It has been already sold in Siberia, in Sakhalin. It operates in Arkangelsk. A lot of airport equipment has been sent to Novosibirsk.
— From the very beginning our strategy has focused on the production of the most complex and most advanced equipment. Such as dual-functional municipal specialised tankers or airport equipment. We aim at developing these products — says Damian Dobrowolski.
At present, our basic pricelist is 62 pages long. It includes only standard products. It does not include all the products which are manufactured or modified in line with special customer requests. If the pricelist included all hybrid vehicles, it would be twice as long, because the number of customers referring to our company from all parts of the world with special requests is increasingly higher. The diversification of products and sales directions is of great importance, especially when the Polish market is not absorbent enough.
Dobrowolski was established on a state-enterprise which manufactured only one type of vehicle for municipal services. After privatisation, the plant was in a financial distress. Today as a result of restructuring and continuous development in the last dozen or so years – it is a flourishing and state-of-the-art enterprise. At the present juncture, the company offers around 60 types of specialized vehicles and solutions used, for instance, in airports, for infrastructure maintenance or in a specialized transportation of liquids. Competing in the European and global markets requires incurring constant expenditure on research and development. Unique competences of Polish engineers translate each year into new, innovative products with parameters, which heighten expectations towards the whole industry. When you conduct a business activity in a mature market and strive to increase the sales of products in industry with a unique and proven brand loyalty, it is not enough to offer more technologically advanced or more comprehensible products. In many cases, the key element will be the strength of the relationship with the company’s customer, which depends on positive customer experience. The Customer must be certain that the company’s products, not only at the moment of purchase, but also after many years of use will be better than products offered by the competition, and that their quality and timely maintenance services will be of high quality throughout the entire period of use of vehicles purchased. Manufacturing tailor-made solutions also requires an extreme flexibility of the organization and organisational efficiency. At present, Dobrowolski offers a world-leading portfolio of products and is supported by a financial investor. Therefore, it can foster the next stage of company’s development – which is creation of the European brand of specialized vehicles and increase in the scale of activity.
Senior Relationship Manager, HSBC Bank Polska S.A.