TBY talks to Serkan Acar, General Manager of Acarlar Makine, on the development of the company, the shift in strategy from sale to rental, and future expansion plans.

Serkan Acar
Serkan Acar has worked across many different branches in various companies, including as a human resources manager, and in sales and after-sales at Acarlar Otomotiv. He later became the Assistant Manager at Acart Havuz, the Turkish distributor of a French swimming pool company. In 2003 he became the General Manager of Acarlar Makine.

How has Acarlar Makine developed its range of services over the past decade?

While I was studying in London and the US, I constantly searched for some new products to add to the Acarlar group of companies. I wanted to bring something to Turkey as a new or niche product. I thus came up with the idea of access platforms. Companies selling and renting such access platforms seemed large, and when I analyzed Turkey I noticed a lack of companies in this sector. These kinds of products are necessary in order for companies to carry out their operations quickly and safely. With the new products we have brought to Turkey we have seen good levels of profitability, mainly due to a lack of competition. This is the main reason why Acarlar Makine developed as it did—I wanted to do something as a leader. We conducted extensive research to make sure this product would be successful in the country, and we also conducted an advertising campaign through exhibitions, advertisements, interviews, and other such strategies. Now, in Turkey, when you need an access platform, you think of Acarlar. That was my dream.

Can you tell us about your current shift from being a sales-based company to a rental company?

At first we didn't consider renting as a business strategy, and we began selling the products. However, after further analysis of foreign markets, I decided that rental was the way to go, as this was the prevailing trend around the world. Most customers use access platforms on a project-by-project basis, and this too prompted us to transform into a rental company. The rental business is difficult in Turkey, as the idea of renting is not as common, and the prevailing attitude is that to own something is better. This made it difficult. However, what happens in the US, London, and elsewhere in the world will happen in the end in Turkey. That is another logic that we went on. We pushed ourselves and kept motivated and then decided to do more rentals. Our goal is now to perfect rental access platforms in Turkey. Right now we are 50-50 rental to sales. In the near future we think it will become 70-30, and we plan to maintain the balance at that level.

What is your product mix?

We have a strategy not to go outside of access platforms. Everyday I get emails from Europe from companies asking us to be their distributor of general construction products. However, we never say yes because we do not want to spend our effort on different products. We always target to do just one and do it the best. However, when you talk about access platforms it really is a wide product range. It is almost impossible to find all of the products from just one brand. As a result, I have many brands. With all of these brands, I have the complete product range. On top of that we choose the best products and give the best customer service. That is our target.

Are there any plans to expand your network of depots?

Yes there are. We will have a total of at least eight or nine depots in Turkey. We already had one depot in Bursa. We opened our depot in Ankara in early 2011. We now plan to open one in Izmir at the end of 2011. In 2012 there will also be one in Antalya and in Istanbul on the European side. The following three years will see more. In 2010 we saw a 70% market increase. This year it might be at least 50% more. When you look at the numbers, it is huge. It is like this because the market is very big but the product is very small in the market now. It grows so quickly because the need is very big. When you look at the product lifecycle, we are just at the beginning.

What are your competitive advantages as a company?

First of all, we were the first. We brought this product to Turkey. The second advantage is that there is no other company solely focused on access platforms. All machinery companies are trying to push access platforms together with other products, such as forklifts and other construction equipment. Our focus is entirely on access platforms. We are dedicated to service and sales. When the customer sees that we are 100% access platforms, they are more satisfied with our service. Another advantage is that we do not have an investment problem since we are part of a big group. If we need more machines, we simply buy them.

Outside of Turkey, what markets are you in and where do you see potential?

We have operations in Iraq, Libya, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. We do not have offices there, but we work with Turkish construction companies that are working in those countries. This automatically puts us there. I sell products to companies that will take them to places like Iraq. We have our name on them. Local people from there call us as a result. We also provide service to these countries if they have problems with our machines.

What is your ultimate vision for the future?

It has always been the same from the beginning. Acarlar has to be the best provider of access platforms in Turkey. Our success also comes from our team. I have a team that really likes this business. We like our platforms and we have a common vision here for the future. They also believe that Acarlar has to be number one in Turkey. This is another reason for our success. When you compare it to the UK, the use of access platforms is about 85%. In Turkey, this number is 15%. That is why that increase is high every year. That is why our expectations for the future are very high. There are approximately 100,000 access platforms in the market in the UK. If you look at Turkey, its population, and the strength of its construction sector, it has the potential to be this high as well. When you look at the product lifecycle in the US and the UK, you see that it is in its maturity. However, in Turkey it is in its introductory and development period. It is just beginning.