The classic start from production in the basement or garage of a house to international recognition is not always successful, but furniture designer and manufacturer UAB Virūna is one of the best examples. They have grown independently for almost thirty years, and only last year benefited from EU investment opportunities for the first time.

Agreements with the Innovation Agency (formerly the Lithuanian Business Support Agency [LBSA]) have provided the company with more than EUR 38,000 to implement an e-commerce model, and almost EUR 24,000 for new product design solutions. The measures ‘E-commerce model Covid-19*’ (E. komercijos modelis COVID-19) and ’Design LT’ (Dizainas LT) are the first ones Virūna has benefited from project support.

According to Arūnas Paulauskas, the company’s export manager and co-owner, the funds have contributed to the creation of several unique furniture collections, which are being further developed and expanded. As well as this, the funding has helped to introduce information technologies for managing business transactions electronically.

The e-commerce project will develop and deploy the customer multiple self-service and B2B legal customer self-service systems, and prepare their full integration with the customer’s centralised business management system (ERP). Separate integrations with the ERP will allow the administration and management of orders for both the e-commerce and B2B systems.

‘We are currently preparing to participate in the EU Green Energy Investment Programme’, says Paulauskas, referring to their plans to further modernise.

From wishes to the ‘James Bond desk’

The idea for the business was born out of a number of examples where standard mass-produced furniture was difficult to fit in non-standard spaces, and the supply of quality furniture was extremely limited. Vytautas Paulauskas, the founder of the family business, started to create his first furniture designs at home, followed the demand and moved on to more complex models and customised systems. As the popularity grew – especially among newcomers – Virūna saw the need to expand its design, manufacturing, engineering and consulting services.

‘Today, our skilled team of 64 employees, using the latest technology and equipment and the craftsmanship of artisans, implements the projects of the most demanding customers and their architects and designers in 5,000 square metres of premises’, says Arūnas proudly, who has joined the family business.

The product range has expanded by about 20%: over 300 different products are exported and new markets such as France, Great Britain, Denmark, Japan and the USA have been reached. ‘All the products manufactured for the Lithuanian market are non-standard, so each piece of furniture or detail is unique, and it would be very difficult to work out the number of them’, notes the co-owner of UAB Virūna.

In Lithuania, the company has furnished the luxury Palanga SPA design and SPA luxury hotels, and for the export market it manufactures furniture that has become a design classic, with designs dating back to the 1960s. ‘For example, the office desk, designed by Bodil Kjaer, was created in 1959 under the name of the Karakter company. This desk is also known as the James Bond desk because the agent worked at it in three films of the series’, he says.

Through innovation to a competitive advantage

Agnė Vaitkūnienė, Director of Investment Management Department and Acting Director of the Innovation Agency, points out that the number of applications received under the measure ‘E-Commerce Model Covid-19’ has never been higher than 1,670 per call in the history of the Innovation Agency (former LBSA), with 1,183 agreements signed.

‘The popularity is primarily due to the business perception that digitisation of business processes and customer innovation are key components to be visible in the market. The same can be said about the importance of design in achieving distinctiveness, an unexpected approach to the presentation of a product, its attractiveness, its innovation. In both cases, value is created that benefits the business through increased revenues and competitive advantage in the market’, says Vaitkūnienė.

A total of 495 applications were submitted for the ‘Design LT’ instrument and 297 contracts were signed.

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