When running a logistics company, most of us are focused on acquiring the cheapest rates, growing our business fast and connecting with numerous partners across the globe. However, NSRN's member CSL Poland has a different outlook. We spoke to Przemysław Hołowacz, the Chief Development Officer of CSL Poland about creating a thriving business based on inclusivity and supporting the local community.
CSL Poland was started by Mr. Hołowacz’s mother, Laura Hołowacz, whose ingenuity and skills created a business that focuses on providing safe and reliable options for their customers. The mother-son duo is now leading the company towards exciting developments, such as the European Union funded, CCIC terminal in Dunikowo.
In conversation with Mr. Hołowacz…
NSRN: Your company was established in 1998, since then you have created a strong business focusing on developing connections between China and Poland, along with extending your reach to Germany and Scandinavia. Can you briefly describe for our readers the history behind the foundations of your company and the journey since?
Przemysław: My mother, Laura Hołowacz, started this company in 1998. At the time, few investors came to her and proposed some support to start the company. With only 3000 euro as the initial investment, my mother, along with her small computer and a car, started this company. Her knowledge and experience helped our company become one of the most significant forwarding units in the region. She started CSL to develop a reliable and safe forwarding unit. I, on the other hand, joined the company more than seven years ago. I started working from the bottom rungs of the company and worked in different areas to gain varied experience. As of now, I am the Chief Development Officer of CSL.
We conduct land, air, sea transport and we have one of the biggest customs agencies in our area. We are located in all major Polish cities, such as Swinoujscie, Stettin, Gdynia- Gdansk. We have a diverse customer network and work with clients from the aluminium sector, pulp and paper industry, food industry, e-commerce business and many others.
We are certified by many international agencies such as AEO, IFS and ISO. As I already mentioned, we want to create a feeling of safety for our customers by protecting their cargo and assets. Moreover, we grow with our partners by cherishing their support and commitment to expanding their business with us. CSL is developing every year, along with our clients and partners. Five years ago, we opened our new office in Stettin, which was a good investment for us. Our city recognised my mother's work in restoring this old slaughterhouse as our new office and more importantly, a cultural centre. This brought many praises for CSL, and my mother was awarded honorary ambassadorship of our city this month. Two years ago, we launched another initiative, the CCIC intermodal depot in Dunikowo. Along with this we also have an IT company established one year ago.
CSL Poland's New Projects
NSRN: The CCIC Intermodal depot sounds like something that would for sure be of interest to our readers. Would you like to tell us more about it and also the current progress on it?
Przemysław: We are building a dry terminal, for containers and intermodal trailers, while also connecting with some warehouse companies. Right now, we have compiled all the documents required to proceed with construction of the terminal. We have also received a hefty grant from the European Union for about 8 million euros. This is the first dry intermodal terminal in the West Pomeranian area, no other such terminals currently exist in the region.
We noticed that this area is booming now. It is an excellent region to set up an e-commerce business, especially to move cargo to Scandinavia, Germany, and other parts of northern Europe. Here in Poland, logistics costs are much cheaper and the terminals are closer in proximity, as compared to Germany or Scandinavia. That is one the reasons why we want to invest in this dry terminal, the other being that companies such as Zalando and Amazon are already set up here.
We realised that road transport could not be the only system from this area, also since the coronavirus pandemic we saw that many trucks were halted due to the lockdown, causing traffic jams. That is why the rail connections are so much more necessary now. Another company is building a warehouse in that area; we are talking to more players to develop spaces for the discharge of containers and storage of cargo. We hope to launch the terminal at the end of 2022.
NSRN: How do you think the terminal can tie in with the developments of the New Silk Road?
Przemysław: When I spoke with our Chinese partners, they told me that Stettin is the doorway to Scandinavia for goods that are coming from China. They told us that we have the best logistics connection to Scandinavia. In our area, some companies import clothes from China to the middle of Poland, for example, Poznan and from there they transport the goods to Stettin by truck. We want to expand the New Silk Road all the way to Stettin for this reason and further to Scandinavia and parts of Germany.
NSRN: Poland is one of the key stops in the New Silk Road, but there are still some myths that prevent many people from involving in themselves in conducting their business with China. As a Polish player, and an EU business, what do you think are some misunderstanding? At the same time, it is understandable that new initiative involves new learnings, what are some of the lessons that you learnt while doing business along the New Silk Road?
Przemysław: I think the big mistake that people in logistics make is that they think only about their own respective businesses. There was a sentence that I heard in an intermodal conference that stayed with me: 'if you want to go fast you can go alone, but if you want to go far you should go together'. If we as logistics companies want to build good connections with China, we need work to together. Unfortunately, people are just working for themselves, which may be all right for a short period, but in the long run, it is not sustainable. To go far in this sector, we must cooperate and propose to our clients in China the best logistics option; the fastest and the cheapest.
I noticed that many manufactures only know two or three types of transport, like air or sea. They are not aware of the opportunities for rail transport. EU has now discovered the importance of rail, and they are significantly investing in infrastructure. We have already seen 600 million euros of investment from the EU so far, and this amount is growing every year. Polish rail connections are getting much more robust and by next year, most projects in the country will be complete. Poland will be the doorway to Europe for the New Silk Road. Since we have one of the biggest terminals in southern Poland, in Sławków, where the trains can directly come in from China without changing gauge. This is a better alternative to Małaszewicze.
CSL Poland Contributes to Stettin's development
NSRN: Stettin is very close to the German border and has been chosen as the new home for many large E-commerce distribution centers (such as Amazon etc). How has this impacted the overall business as a Stettin based company?
Przemysław: In Stettin, we have around 400 Scandinavian companies and 100 German companies. They launch their business here because we are cheaper and very close to terminals. Interestingly, one of our partners in East Germany informed us that they get their delivery from Stettin and not the German Amazon. Amazon has started to operate in lots of new areas, and wherever it goes, it attracts lots of logistics companies.
Our area has grown rapidly, and the unemployment rate last year was only about 2% which is quite low. Of course, the pandemic increased this percentage. But on the bright side, it might be a good time for new companies to set up because previously they had everything except labour and now that won't be the case. I believe that the area will get much business soon. We have many collaborations with e-commerce companies in this area already. We conduct sea or road logistics and customs clearance for them. The business with e-commerce companies is growing between 20-40% every year.
NSRN: We would like to shed light on a fascinating aspect of your company. CSL is deeply involved in community activities and responsibilities. Would you like to tell us why do you think it is important for businesses to support the activities of local communities?
Przemysław: The first floor of the old slaughterhouse consists mainly of our offices, whereas the ground floor has a restaurant, a theatre and a concert hall. We have also established a souvenir store that sells books of local writers and books about our area. It also sells products by local designers. We are very proud of this initiative.
We always wanted to move differently than others. Therefore, when we were looking for a new space for our company, we discovered this area. We could have easily invested in a new building, and that would have cost us less, but when my mother noticed the building, she felt drawn to it and decided to start a business here. Last year we hosted about 244 cultural activities, there was something new happening here almost every day! Most of these cultural activities conducted here are not charged, and everyone is welcomed. For this reason, my mother received the honorary ambassadorship of the city. These titles are usually given to famous artists, musicians, or writers, but no one from the business industry. My mother is the first person from the field of business to receive this title.
Interestingly, when we transformed the building, even the surrounding area began to change. There was not much around here before, now there are new buildings, with a few restaurants popping up. A thousand or so people spend their time here: it is a very integral part of our city now. Previously, this whole area was closed, with no lights, no roads and no buildings. But now, there is a thriving business with many people spending time here.
Economically, it was not the most appropriate decision to take because we invested a lot more, but the whole city recognises us due to our contribution. Even some of our Scandinavian logistics partners told us that once they looked at our building, they realised that we were a unique company, and were excited to work with us. Surprisingly, we gained two contracts because of how our office looks.
This has been one of our central projects, and now we are focused on the Dunikowo terminal. The CCIC intermodal terminal in Dunikowo will provide opportunities for different companies since it will be an open terminal, and other logistics clients can also grow with us. We have a very inclusive philosophy when it comes to increasing business along the New Silk Road.
Click to view their homepage for more information: http://csl.com.pl/o-nas/