It”s never a prize too many
- Giedrė PutelytėCompanies in the food products, financial, information technology and advertising sectors have won numerous prizes in international competitions, proving that Lithuanians are capable of producing quality products.Awards enhance the reputation of a company, as well as that of the country it represents. They also serve as an indicator of the development of different Lithuanian industries and their compliance with international standards.La crème de la crèmeEuromoney, Global Finance and The Banker, some of the world’s most respectable finance magazines, have repeatedly named SEB Vilniaus Bankas, the country”s largest bank, which is owned by the Swedish SEB Group, the best commercial bank in Lithuania. It has been rated by Euromoney for five years in a row as the best bank, and by Global Finance for seven successive years.
“Reliability is our best asset”, says Audrius Žiugžda, a vice-president of the bank and director of the Retail Banking Unit.
“The fact that the bank has been recognised by independent international banking experts proves our high level of reliability and professionalism, and the high quality of our services.””
The bank has won awards in separate categories, too.
Last year, for example, it was voted Best Debt House in Lithuania by Euromoney, and Best Foreign Exchange Bank by Global Finance. VB Vilfima, a subsidiary, won the award for Best Mergers and Acquisitions Adviser in Lithuania by Euromoney in 2004.
Not only financial publications but also banks themselves have established international awards to assess the performance of the banks they operate with in a certain country. The performance of a specific function is assessed. For example, in 2004, SEB Vilniaus Bankas received Deutsche Bank’s Straight-Through Processing Award for its outstanding performance in handling international money transfers.
“”International awards are very important for expanding the network of correspondent banks and participating in joint financing projects with other banks”,” Žiugžda says.
– “Recognition is very important when a foreign bank selects a correspondent bank in another country, as it usually chooses one that has won awards from international experts. The same goes for companies that are looking for a bank in another country when they are expanding their operations.
“”Naturally, the solutions and quality of services offered by an internationally recognised bank must be flawless. Thus, it’s not only the acknowledgement of its achievements, but also a duty to preserve and sustain the quality achieved.””
Hansabankas, a member of Hansabank, the largest financial group in the Baltic countries, was named Best Equities House in Lithuania by Euromoney in 2004. In late 2003, Euromoney indicated that Hansabankas was a likely candidate to win the Best Bank in Lithuania award in coming years.
Meanwhile, Suprema, a brokerage house owned by the Finnish financial group Evli, won the Best Local Partner in Lithuania award for its handling of a Lt274m share issue by Mažeikių Nafta. The shares were sold to Yukos, the Russian oil company.
In 2003, Euromoney selected Prime Investment, an investment company, as Best Mergers and Acquisitions Adviser in Lithuania; while Žabolis ir Partneriai won the magazine”s award for Best Local Partner in Lithuania.
Prime Investment has handled six successful merger and acquisition transactions in recent years. It advised Limarko, a Klaipėda-based company, on the Lt59m acquisition of Klaipėdos Transporto Laivynas from the state, and Alna, an information technologies company, on a Lt12.5m deal to sell Navision Software Baltics. It also participated in the acquisition by Informacinės Technologijos of the business of Informacijas Technologijas, a Latvian company.
Established only three years ago, Žabolis ir Partneriai, which works with merchant banks, was the sole advisor to Senukai, a retail trade company, in the sale of more than 50% of its shares to Finland’s Kesko. Žabolis ir Partneriai was also the only local advisor on the privatisation of Lietuvos Dujos, the natural gas import and distribution company.
Recognition for the legal fraternity
AAA Baltic Service Company, a Lithuanian law firm, has been ranked as the leading patent registration and protection firm in the Baltic states by Managing Intellectual Property, based on a survey of intellectual property experts. This is not the first international recognition of its professional excellence. The London-based Managing Intellectual Property is one of the most respected international magazines in the field of intellectual property.
“”A reputation as a reliable company, experienced staff and international experience are vital in our work”,” says Otilija Klimaitienė, a patents lawyer with AAA Baltic Service Company.
“”In the survey by Managing Intellectual Property, firms could not vote for themselves. They cannot buy an entry in the annually updated guide to intellectual property firms either. That”s why professional recognition from colleagues and competitors is very important.””
The firm also has a similar rating from Legal 500, an authoritative international publication.
At the cutting edge
The developers of Internet sites for two Lithuanian municipalities won awards in 2003 and 2005 in the EuroCrest competition for the best websites of cities, municipalities and regions in Europe.
HNIT-BALTIC GeoInfoServisas, an information technology company, received the award in 2003 for the development and installation of electronic services for the local government of the Jurbarkas district. It developed and installed 13 new electronic services at the municipal website, www.jurbarkas.lt, and created a system of links to e-services provided by the state and local governments.
Meanwhile, Sintagma has helped to supply modern services to the Šiauliai district. The company developed and installed a modern content management system, Station SI, on the local authority’s website. This system enables the local government not only to update its website quickly, but also to offer electronic services that are not yet provided by any other Lithuanian public institution. The prize-winning site provides electronic versions of all the forms that residents may need. They can fill in an online application for permission to organise commercial events, for a one-off license to sell alcohol at events, to register a farm, and so on.
“”We are glad to be able to contribute to the development of new, modern e-services”,” says Albertas Šermokas, executive director of UAB Sintagma, the company that installed the new content management system.
“”We expect that other local governments will follow in the footsteps of the leader in this area and will have new, user-friendly information technology solutions installed.””
Two information technology companies, Alna Intelligence and Baltijos Programinė Įranga, have also won important international awards.
Alna Intelligence, a consultancy and information technology service company, has been awarded the status of Large Account Reseller by the Microsoft Corporation. It became one of the first Lithuanian companies to be granted this exclusive status.
“”With it”,” says Tomas Milaknis, the head of the Alna Group, “”Alna Intelligence will be able to provide its customers with better software licensing conditions.
“It will ensure simpler and cheaper software licensing and licence management for local companies. This should strengthen their competitive advantage on the EU market.””
Alna Intelligence will be able to customise corporate Microsoft licensing solutions for any company, not only in Lithuania, but also in all EU member states.
Baltijos Programinė Įranga, specialising in large stream data processing, Internet applications, e-commerce and e-business solutions, was ranked highly, along with global leaders such as Microsoft and IBM, at the 15th Annual Jolt Product Excellence and Productivity Awards, organised by Software Development Magazine in San Francisco.
MagicDraw UML 9.0, a visual UML modelling and CASE tool designed by Baltijos Programinė Įranga for business analysts, software analysts, programmers, QA engineers, and documentation writers to facilitate the analysis and design of Object Oriented systems and databases, has been honoured with the Productivity Award in the Design Tools category.
Jolt Awards are given to products that have “”jolted”” the industry by increasing development speed and efficiency.
With a revenue growth rate of 64%, Elinta, a software developer, has made it into the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50 in Central Europe, a list of the 50 fastest-growing technology firms in the region.
Metasite, an electronic business consultancy, was included in the list of 42 best new economy start-ups by Jeune Entrepreneur Européen in 2001. Since the 1990s, this organisation has been presenting European Awards for the Spirit of Enterprise to the most promising growing businesses from all European countries and regions. From Central and Eastern Europe, some Hungarian and Polish companies have also made it on to the list.
Bitė GSM, the mobile communications operator, was recognised for its achievements in implementing geographical information systems technologies at the 2000 ESRI Users Conference in San Diego. This award is sponsored by the Environmental System Research Institute, the global leader in GIS software solutions and spatial database management systems. The US Army Corps of Engineers, National Geographic Map Machine Project, Samsung SDS, the city of Budapest, the Panama Canal Authority and other organisations were also honoured at the user conference.
Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupė, one of the largest Lithuanian breweries, owned by the Danish company Royal Unibrew, won two gold medals at the World Beer Cup 2004 competition in the United States. The event featured more than 1,560 beers from almost 400 breweries in 40 countries. The Panevėžys-based brewery took home the gold medals for its Kalnapilio Original and Kalnapilis 7.30 beer from the most prestigious beer makers” contest, often called the “”Olympic Games of beer””.
Vladas Tekorius, the general director of Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupė AB, points out that they have received many awards.
“”The two gold medals of the World Beer Cup have put us on the Olympus of world beer makers”,” he says. “It”s the highest award Lithuania’s brewers have ever received.
“”The country has every right to be called a country of good beer. The award is known all over the world, which is helping us to capture the US market and others.””
Švyturio-Utenos Alus, the country”s biggest brewery, won a gold medal in 2004 for its Švyturio Ekstra beer at the Stockholm Beer Festival, one of the four most important beer competitions in the world. It was voted the best lager in a blind tasting by a panel of experts.
“”It”s the dream of all Euro-pean brewers to outperform SABMiller, the world’s third-largest brewery group,”” says Džuljeta Armonienė, of Švyturys.
Of the various awards won by Švyturys, the most prestigious are the gold medal at the 2001 World Beer Championship, the silver medal at the 2000 World Beer Cup, and the bronze medal at the 2002 World Beer Cup. All three events are held in the USA.
“”This recognition has given a boost to our beer exports to the Nordic countries”,” says Rolandas Viršilas, general director of Švyturio-Utenos Alus.
“In Norway and Finland, our beer is supplied to the retail stores of a state-controlled chain. One feature of these two markets is that, due to the state monopoly, very few types of beer get on to the shelves.
“The situation is different in Denmark, where the world”s best-known brands have strong positions. Our gold medal from a Stockholm trade fair shows that we are real experts in beer production, and that the quality of our products is as good as that of the beer produced by the world’s leading brewers.”
Ragutis, another brewery, won the gold medal for its Horn Light beer at World Food 2004, one of the largest international food shows in Eastern Europe. Horn Light beat many world-famous brands.
“”We are very glad to have won this award”,” says Vytautas Meištas, general director of Ragutis. “”This proves once again that the quality of Lithuanian beer is appreciated worldwide.””
He believes that the award will help the company open up new markets in Eastern Europe.
The products of Stumbras, one of the largest alcoholic beverage producers in Lithuania, have earned it ten gold and silver medals in international food and drink shows. It is particularly proud of the gold medal it won for its Original Lithuanian Gold Vodka in the Product of the Year 2004 competition at World Food Moscow 2004.
“”When your vodka is voted the best in Russia, it really means something”,” says Aldona Budrienė, chief technologist at Stumbras, with pride in her voice.
Alita, its closest rival, has also scored well. Its Premium Gera Vodka won a prize at this year”s International Spirits Challenge, a competition that has been held in London for ten years.
This is Alita”s second award in this competition. Its Karalius Mindaugas sparkling wine received an award earlier. It is the only Lithuanian producer to have won two awards at this prestigious competition.
Exports to EU countries of Premium Gera, in four flavours, are the largest in terms of volume among the country”s vodkas.
“”In the EU, our vodka is praised for its quality, its exceptional softness and its crystal-clear transparency”,” says Darius Vėželis, marketing and sales director of Alita.
Also, its Alita, the first and only cognac bottled in Lithuania, won the gold medal in the Very Special category of cognacs at the 13th International Professional Competition for the Best Champagne, Wine and Cognac of the Year.
“”Russia is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world for cognac”,” says Vėželis. “Therefore, this is an important achievement and special recognition for Alita at an international level, which helps to build up consumer confidence in our products.”
In his words, his company, which was the first and is still the only one in the country to begin bottling cognac, has proved that it maintains the highest quality and complies with the highest production standards.
This is not the first award that Alita has received in the competition. Its brandy won awards in 1999 and 2000.
The best of the rest
In the food industry, the best performers are dairy producers. Žemaitijos Pienas, one of the country’s largest dairy groups, won a silver medal for its Jovaras cheese at the Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft international competition in Germany last year. The company’s Parmesan cheese won the gold at the same competition in 2003.
Property development is currently the fastest-growing sector of the country”s economy, ranking fifth by GDP. Europa, the business and shopping centre, was built in Vilnius by Hanner, a Lithuanian property developer. The complex consists of a 33-storey, 17,500-square-metre business centre, the highest building in the Baltic states, a 22,000-square-metre shopping centre, and a multi-storey car park. With it, Hanner won the prestigious Central and Eastern Europe Mixed Use Development of the Year 2004 award.
Kappa Packaging Baltic, the Lithuanian subsidiary of Kappa Packaging, one of the largest corrugated packaging manufacturers in Europe, was awarded a World Star by the World Packaging Organisation for an innovative packaging solution in 2002. The packaging producer was recognised by the organisation for the second successive year. Other winners of the World Star competition include companies such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Sony Corporation and Procter & Gamble.
“”This recognition shows that Kappa Packaging Baltic is capable of designing and producing corrugated cardboard packaging that distinguishes our customers” products from those of other producers, not only in Lithuania, but also beyond its borders”,” says Gintaras Bačiulis, the company’s general director.
Audėjas, one of the biggest upholstery manufacturers in Europe, with an annual output of over two million metres of fabrics in various designs, has also won awards. It exports about 75% of its products to more than 30 countries, mostly Germany and the Nordic region.
Its Nijolė-1 was selected as a trendsetting fabric at Decosit 2000, the world”s largest trade fair for upholstery, and received the Trends 2001/2 award. Audėjas was participating in this trade show for the tenth time and took home an award for the seventh year in a row.
“”We are proud that the work of our designers was rated so highly by international experts”,” says Jonas Karčiauskas, general director of Audėjas.
“”The award and the great interest shown in our new fabric collections at the trade fair prove that Lithuanian textile products can compete successfully with even those of large corporations.””
Advertisers are active
Advertising agencies are being rewarded for their creative ideas. Awards in this field balance between business and art. Lithuanian advertising companies have performed well in festivals and competitions in the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe, and have done particularly well in the Golden Hammer festival.
Golden Hammer, which has been held since 1994, is the largest advertising competition in the Baltic countries. The event is well known throughout Eastern Europe as well.
The year 2004 was highly successful for Lithuanian agencies. They received seven Hammers, including two golds and five silvers.
TBWA/Videvita, a communications agency, took home both golds. The silvers went to Leo Burnett Vilnius, DDB Vilnius, Lukrecija BBDO, TBWA/Videvita and OMD Lietuva.
“”The three major awards at the Golden Hammer festival came as a pleasant surprise”,” says Žiedūnas Levinskas, director of TBWA/Videvita.
“”It was a result of the application of the disruption communications philosophy of the TBWA network to the creation and marketing of advertisements.””
TBWA/Videvita won a golden Nike at the Golden Drum Festival in Slovenia. The event attracted more than 2,000 entries in seven categories, from 31 countries in Europe.
Lukrecija BBDO took first and second places in two categories at the 5th Ryba Zolotaya international advertising festival in Kiev.
This year the “”Grifas”” advertisement, created by DDB Vilnius, won the first prize in the print category in the Ukrainian capital.
Managers of all the award-winning companies say that the prizes have provided a stimulus for further expansion and exports, and increased their self-confidence. The fact that Lithuanians have outperformed even global giants really helps to overcome the inferiority complex that many in the post-Soviet countries have developed.