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The Warsaw Voice » Business » April 28, 2011
Business & Economy
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A Healthy Approach to Business
April 28, 2011   
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W這dzimierz Bogiel, president of Karmar SA, talks to Magdalena ζsak about the company’s development.

Your company has been on the Polish market for 20 years. How would you sum up this time?
Our company was set up and began operating at a time of political transition in Poland. The founders were civil engineers who had worked at state-run construction enterprises for a few years. In 1991, observing the development of the construction market, they decided to take a risk and start their own business. Using their still rather modest professional experience, they set up a company that today is one of the most interesting and reliable partners for many investors on the Polish market.

Like many other businesses, the company has had its ups and downs. Since the market environment was not always favorable and the company lacked experience in this kind of business, it was often a matter of learning from one’s own mistakes. At the same time, this helped build firm foundations and a healthy approach to business. It gradually became clear that you couldn’t spend more than you made, that financial liquidity was extremely important, and that you had to respect your customers and react to their needs. From the very beginning, the company attached great importance to the high technical standards of its performance and to handling projects using its own capacity in the case of building shells. The company’s small but close-knit team successfully completed many small and medium-sized projects over the years, gaining references and experience. In 1997-1998, Karmar built its first large office project acting as general contractor—Nordic Park. It also helped the investor by arranging some supplementary funding that enabled the project to be finished successfully.

Due to its growing book of orders and ownership changes, in 1997 Karmar was transformed into a joint-stock company. The security of operations—a guarantee of development—was ensured by excellent cooperation with financial institutions, especially Bank BPH, which is now Pekao SA bank.

The years 2000-2004 were a time of further rapid growth in the company’s sales. Profitability stayed at a decent level, despite crises in the sector at the time. This strengthened customers’ and banks’ confidence in the company, making Karmar SA well prepared for new challenges. The management board was changed in early 2005 to include people with many years of experience in leading construction firms around the country. Many new and good engineers joined the company. Thanks to the staff’s joint efforts, in 2005-2008 sales grew from zl.90 million to zl.280 million. This was noticed and appreciated by one of the world’s largest construction groups, Bouygues Construction, which decided to strengthen its Polish presence. In mid-2007, Karmar SA was taken over by Bouygues Construction, which hugely strengthened the Polish company as well. We gained almost unlimited access to Bouygues’ references all over the world. In cooperation with banks, the company can take advantage of the favorable terms offered to the entire group.

Since 2007, we have been present in all general construction sectors. We work on residential, office, commercial, educational, and leisure projects as well as technology parks and many other projects. Our customers include both public and private investors. In the crisis years of 2008-2009 we entered the civil engineering market, building bridges, overpasses and tunnels. We have a network of branches covering almost the whole country. Apart from Warsaw, we are present in Lower Silesia, Wielkopolska and Pomerania.

Which of the company’s projects would you say are its showpieces?
It would be hard to distinguish any particular project. All of them are memorable; they all involved some kind of great construction adventure and the completion of some stage of development important to the company. In the residential construction sector, I really like the modern building at 2A Stawki St. with its unique cement plate facade.

I also like the fine buildings on Bluszcza雟ka Street in the Mokot闚 district, and the lovely villas on Tczewska Street, exclusive apartments on Elekcyjna Street in the Wola district and in Rezydencja Foksal on Nowy 安iat Street. The Catalina office building is, to me, another excellent example of modern office architecture perfectly blending in with a large traffic hub. Always on my way to the airport, I pass the Ok璚ie traffic junction. Again, I think this project, the first in our infrastructure construction operations, can be cause for pride. The Plaza shopping center in Zgorzelec was a very interesting project that was completed in record time. I like the CENT 1 and 2 projects for the University of Warsaw, built on the university campus. The laboratories and research and computing centers being set up there will be among the most advanced in Europe.

How is your company different from the competition?
Karmar SA is still a medium-sized business. Our order book is dominated by projects worth up to zl.100 million and these are the kind of projects we are particularly interested in. Of course, we are also capable of completing projects worth in excess of zl.200 million. Our annual sales in recent years have ranged from zl.350 million to zl.380 million.

We have our own engineers in each sector, which makes it easier to coordinate the entire building process, including the construction of buildings and work carried out by specialist subcontractors. We have a low level of overhead costs. I think another special feature of our company is the attitude to staff, our system of training courses, and sharing experience within the Bouygues Group. Our employees from different levels and divisions have taken part in training courses all over the world. We have ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and ISO 18000 certificates, but what we want to focus on is the introduction of a sustainable construction system. In the face of threats posed by growing environmental pollution, energy costs and carbon dioxide emissions, we plan to use the group’s experience to get our investors interested in a green certificate, for example the BREEAM certificate. Obtaining this environmental certificate is a difficult and long process. During the construction of a project, it involves combining energy-saving air conditioning, ventilation, heating, elevator and lighting systems with continual monitoring of water and energy consumption as well as proper waste management. We are just beginning a large project, the new headquarters for TP SA, which aims to obtain a BREEAM “good” certificate.

What are the company’s development plans for the next few years?
We have started two large projects. For Bouygues Immobilier, a developer from the Bouygues Group, we are building TP Town, Telekomunikacja Polska SA’s head office in Warsaw. This will be an office building with usable space of 43,700 sq m to a design by Fisher Atelier, to be completed in 25 months. The scale of this undertaking, the modern design solutions, make this an extremely important project for the future of the Bouygues Group in Poland. Successful completion will be proof that Karmar SA has fully matured to working on the toughest challenges and that we can boast model cooperation among Bouygues companies within the group.

Near Rzesz闚, for a consortium comprising SIAC and PBG Hydrobudowa, as part of the construction of the A4 freeway, our company has started building another large project, the E-118 viaduct within the A4’s Krzy-D瑿ica Pustynia section. The project will involve extremely advanced technology. These two projects define the company’s strategy for the next two years.

In terms of organization, we plan to add Ma這polska and Upper Silesia to our regional presence. In view of our 25-percent sales growth this year, we plan to modify our structure and management system to adapt them to the new challenges. We will continue to look for interesting technology and design solutions that would improve our competitive edge. We also plan to take part in Public-Private Partnership projects. So far the development of this market has been slow, but we hope that local administration activity will pick up speed in the coming years. Our plans take into account the changing market situation and the investment projects of our public and private customers.
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