Sefa Küçükpazarlı
Sefa Küçükpazarlı was born in 1956 and began working after secondary school. In 1975, he started a business with his elder brother, manufacturing molds and dies. Another division was added to the company in 1994, following the addition of his three other brothers to the company. Today, Küçükpazarlı Aviation is one of the leading aerospace companies in Turkey, producing 1,100 different aircraft parts.

How has Küçükpazarlı grown from a small machinery parts manufacturer to the largest supplier of TAI in Turkey?

In 1975, two young brothers started the business in a 40-sqm shop floor by building molds and dies. We had no money. It is a typical Turkish story, starting from zero and working by hand. We were just taking care of ourselves, but the business grew and after eight years we were able to buy our own building in the city center, so we moved from the shop floor. The shop moved to OSTİM in Ankara in 1983 and the business grew. We were able to make more money and we needed another facility. We found another division in this industrial area in 1994 just for sheet metal pressing purposes. We were working heavily in the construction industry. In the meantime, we were making some different industrial parts for the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKEK), the oldest Turkish company to make missiles and weapons. In 2004, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) had a strategy to develop a stronger supplier network. There are big companies in the defense and aerospace industry, but they developed a strategy to improve the SMEs that are supporting these companies. In 2004, TAI came to our company and said it was going to outsource more, and asked if we were willing to do it. At that time, we said okay and started investing. We invested in new machines, and in 2005 we started our third division, aerospace. We took some of the young employees from our existing facilities and we started something new. Soon, we were able to show our capabilities, and today we are the largest supplier to TAI in Turkey. Right now, we are able to machine produce even large-sized parts. We are the first producer of the mainframes for the Airbus 380, for example. We worked hard for it, but it is also that the strategy of SSM was important, as well as the support of TAI.

How did the shift into aerospace change your business?

Normally, we are a company with good jobs, but being dedicated to aerospace was something different and we needed a new building. We stopped for one and a half years, and we were starting a new process, which meant difficult times. We were learning, making some mistakes, and correcting them, so it was a difficult stage. The opportunity was given for many companies, but I think Küçükpazarlı did something good; we made good decisions and acted on opportunities by taking some risks. It wasn't like we were running blindly; we calculated our risks and saw what we could do. It was not a common industry for us. We were doing things for the defense industry, but aerospace was different because the quality level was much higher. Our biggest success was bringing in the right team.

What can some of the smaller SMEs learn from Küçükpazarlı?

Normally, to get to a certain level of quality, you have to work hard for it. Of course, an expansion rate cannot be 100% every year. What Küçükpazarlı did was first to give importance to the job and take it seriously. We had no chance to make mistakes in this business. We invested everything that we earned, which means we took it very seriously. If you have the desire to do things right, there is a great chance to succeed; anyone can do it. It also takes patience, of course. You make some mistakes and it takes time. Not every day goes smoothly, so you have to be patient.

What is the potential for Turkey to be a leader in the defense industry globally?

Turkey is dynamic right now. For example, we see that the importance of Turkey in the East and in Southeastern countries is increasing. The Turkish army is one of the biggest and strongest armies in the world. We know that there are many countries that directly buy weapons from us if they know the Turkish army is using them. It is a big advantage, and it will be a great thing to become a leader.