Posted: 19.04.2023 13:12:00

The best investment for tomorrow

‘We are not dependent on the whims of the West’ — sanctions have become an incentive for Vitebsk Carpets to work more actively and successfully

In 2023, Vitebsk Carpets intends to increase the production of carpet products to more than 17 million square metres, conclude new contracts and expand sales markets. The company pays special attention to import substitution, 75 percent of their products go to the Russian Federation. Now they are working on a project to install their own technological equipment for the production of backing cloth. This will be a novelty not only for Belarus, but also for Russia, where the plant has good growth points: since the beginning of the year alone, contracts have been signed with ten new business partners — from Moscow to Yekaterinburg. And the capacity of the Russian carpet market allows us to further expand the geography of sales. We talked with the new head of the enterprise, who once started his career here after graduating from the Vitebsk State Technological University.

The best investment for tomorrow 

Artem Lokhankin, a native of Vitebsk, has been appointed Director General of Vitebsk Carpets since February, having worked here for 10 years as a process engineer, and for the last three years as the head of a new branch of Brest Carpets. 
“I came to the Brest branch in a difficult period. Employees were worried about what awaits them as part of their original competitor. Versions went different, up to the fact that the equipment will be taken away, and people will be put out on the street. Pessimistic forecasts did not come true. Instead of a collapse, the enterprise opened up new prospects. Over the past year, the branch worked with a net profit,” the young director is satisfied.
Today, the company produces products of the luxury segment. The demand for luxury goods is and will always be. As well as other products of the plant that meet world trends. Among the popular novelties of last year are carpets with anti-slip backing. The line for applying such a coating was purchased in China. 
The plant rightly perceives modernisation of production as the best investment in tomorrow. At the end of last year, a modern carpet weaving machine and a new sewing machine were installed here. An extruder is one of the most important acquisitions of recent years. Now threads for carpets are produced by themselves, and not imported from abroad. There are no problems with raw materials for the extruder: about 90 percent of it is purchased in the Russian Federation, the rest — in Türkiye and other countries.
The company pays special attention to import substitution. Now we are working on a project to install our own technological equipment for the production of ground cloth. This will be a novelty not only for Belarus, but also for Russia. And the idea to replace the jute from Bangladesh with the Belarusian version has already been implemented. An alternative was found in a similar, only synthetic thread from SvetlogorskKhimvolokno.

New opportunities 

The plant annually supplies up to 1.7 million square metres of products to the domestic market. More than 75 percent of manufactured products go to the Russian Federation. Belarusian carpets are known in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — only in the last three months the plant has signed several new contracts with customers from these countries.
There is a positive mood, Artem Lokhankin shares his feelings, “Geopolitics affects the economy, we have lost part of the European and Ukrainian market. In order to develop and live, not survive, one cannot do without expanding the range and business contacts. We expect to increase our presence and sales in Russia. 
We are heading for new markets. Furthermore, we are negotiating with the Tajik Kayrakkum Carpets. Representatives of the company have already visited Vitebsk. There is an option to create a joint production.”
The Azerbaijani market, where carpets are more than just a piece of furniture is another promising direction. In February, a delegation of a Belarusian enterprise flew to Baku — representatives of local businesses became interested in the proposals of Vitebsk residents, noting that they had never heard of carpets from Belarus before. This is a green light and an opportunity to carve out a niche.

What the eyes like, the hands do 

People are behind the success of the company — both experienced employees and promising young people. There are many dynasties at the plant. Mironovs is one of the brightest  example. The head of the family, Vladimir, who manages the production of woven carpet products, surprises with such coincidence, “My ancestors lived in the village of Kovrovoe, Dubrovno District. Once upon a time, sheep were kept there in almost every yard, which means that carpets were also woven — an indispensable attribute of comfort in a village hut. My grandmother was famous for rugs woven on a loom that my grandfather made for her. Original, somewhat reminiscent of jacquard products. This is our home heirloom.”
Vladimir Mironov works at the enterprise for already 35 years. His wife Tamara also has a single entry in her workbook. Having earned preferential experience as a weaver, she could have gone on a well-deserved rest, but she decided otherwise. Now he works as a storekeeper in a workshop where thin, but very strong threads are born from the smallest polypropylene granules, which form the basis of carpets. Tamara says with a smile, “My husband and I are also bound together by the strongest thread. We met at our company. We are glad that there is someone to continue the family business. The eldest son Dmitry recently moved to Zhlobin, before that he was the head of the weaving workshop. The younger Sergei is a shift supervisor in the finishing shop of a tufted carpet factory.”
50 people work under the leadership of 26-year-old Sergei Mironov. Like his brother, he is a graduate of the Vitebsk Technological University, “I like the plant. My eyes like everything here, and my hands do it. I want to develop, grow in my direction. It is important that management sees and supports this.”
We look into the workshops with the Mironov family. The looms are knocking rhythmically, buzzing, winding on hundreds of spools and threads... At one of the sites, we see the European machine Alpha 500. It was purchased before the rampant sanctions and launched in January 2022. Vladimir Mironov notes, 
“Such equipment is tailored for the production of modern coatings, including double-sided ones. But even a smart machine without professionals will fall silent. This one is served by three weavers, and the work of each, consider jewellery. The slightest failure is equal to defect, so knowledge, a trained eye and speed of reaction are must-have.”

Recognition for hometown

The technological capabilities of the plant allow them to weave works of any complexity. An inspiring example is the new collection dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the Vitebsk Region. On the carpet-pictures there are recognisable sights of the city over the Dvina River: the Town Hall, the Three Bayonets, the domes of the Holy Assumption Cathedral, the Summer Amphitheater... Lyubov Mikhailova, head of the carpet design bureau, under whose supervision the designs were developed, clarifies, “The landscapes are created on tufted carpets by printing on a one-colour canvas, the size of the works is 80 by 120 centimetres. This series is our declaration of love for our native city and a fresh look at exclusive souvenirs.”

By Anna Naumova

Photos by Pavel Bogush, Anton Stepanishchev, BELTA,