What can companies entering Turkey expect from GP Trust, your own marketing and financial advisory company?
I have accumulated extensive knowledge in finance, which I find quite interesting because, after working for years at financial institutions, you get an overall picture of the Turkish economy and you can analyze companies and sectors with a critical eye because you have to assume a certain risk. Therefore, I believe these companies can benefit from this accumulated knowledge and hopefully I can give them advice in the right direction. The size of the companies my team and I have been advising are relatively small in scale and they want to move into Turkey with baby steps to begin with. There is a market research element and the aim is then to try to find them Turkish partners here that they would like to do business with.
How do you assess the current level of education in Turkey in creating global entrepreneurs?
That was one thing during my social responsibility years that I spent a lot of time on. Unfortunately, I believe the Turkish education system is not sufficient at preparing young people to become the sort of entrepreneurs that we want in today's world. I say this because, since I graduated, the system hasn't changed and has become archaic. I would like to see young people develop their creative thinking and place a lot of importance to innovation. Members of the private sector would like to tailor those youngsters to their needs but, unfortunately, the academic world and the business world are too far apart from one another. We always say we should look at European countries, such as Germany and Austria, for examples. The vocational school system is a good one, but it is still not sufficient enough to educate youngsters to become the type of entrepreneurs we would like to see. The practice and on-the-job-training is of utmost importance and skilled workers are what we need. In order to bring in the culture, we have tried to implement several things. One program that we started involved entrepreneurship competitions in schools to motivate people to come up with new ideas and to sell those ideas. We went to several universities in Anatolia to talk to them about how they don't have to be a salary-based employee after graduation. One good thing is that for the last 10 years we have been talking about entrepreneurship and the lack of education on this matter and, today, institutions are beginning to become aware of the issue. I believe Turkey has come a long way in that respect. The government is also thinking about it, and a lot of institutions are addressing it. İŞKUR came up with several programs giving tax incentives to those corporates employing young people graduated from vocational schools. Borsa Istanbul (BIST) is setting up new markets and arrangements to bring entrepreneurs and investors together. And so things are moving forward and this is a very good development.
What can be done at the moment to increase the role of women in business and develop their entrepreneurial skills?
There are 12 million women who are not part of the economy, which is an important issue. There is a lot of responsibility placed on women to get married and have babies. However, I believe entrepreneurship for women is extremely important for this country. A model needs to be found that can support those that are hungry to start their own businesses in a financial way. There are currently certain institutions that provide microcredits, and there is a lot of promise; however, it is not sufficient. This is one area in Turkey that we should really focus on; bringing these women into the economy somehow and developing them as small entrepreneurs.
What can be done to help SMEs become MNEs?
SMEs are the backbone of the economy and they require the right structure to adapt to a more global platform. This can involve new innovations and R&D. I also act as the Chairwoman for strategic network of a Venture Capital/Private Equity fund advised by European Investment Fund- EIF. We specifically target SMEs in the Istanbul Venture Capital Initiative (iVCi) fund. This is a fund that is structured by the European Investment Fund (EIF), the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization of Turkey (KOSGEB), the Technology Development Foundation of Turkey (TTGV), and quite a few others. Those are the three major institutions, though, and they put €160 million into this fund. The idea is to support technologically innovative SMEs to grow their businesses.
In terms of business, how do you assess the importance of Turkey for Europe?
It is of the utmost importance. Europe bore the brunt of a major portion of the global crisis in 2008. But, Europe still remains Turkey's major trading partner. In that regard, Europe is very important for Turkey and Turkey is important for Europe. Europe is a very important trade partner, but because of the slowdown in business, due to the global crisis, Turkey looked for alternative markets, which successfully helped it make up for a portion of the loss of trade with Europe. There are also solid examples of Turkish firms investing in Europe. Yıldız Holding recently invested in United Biscuits to the tune of $3.2 billion. Such a large investment makes Yıldız Holding one of the top biscuit makers in the whole world. Turkish investors are now investing in several major European brands, which shows that Turkey has come a long way. We used to look at how many investors were coming to Turkey, but we are now looking at Turkish brands investing abroad. The recent BBVA merger with Garanti Bank also shows that Turkey is at a true investment crossroads. All of this shows that Turkey is an important player globally, and these examples show that Turkey and Europe are very much acting together.
© The Business Year - January 2015