Turkey 2014 | ICT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tamer Özmen, CEO of Microsoft Turkey, on the importance of Turkey to the company, growth drivers, and cloud computing.

Tamer Özmen
Tamer Özmen joined Microsoft in February 2010 from Orange, a French telco. Based in the UK, he was in charge of managing Orange’s $1.2 billion Online Division. Prior to joining Orange, he established his own start-up company, TouchLocal, which became the UK’s fastest growing local business search and practical social networking site (per Nielsen Net Ratings) in 2003-2006. Özmen started his career as a member in the team that started priceline.com in the US in the mid-1990s. Running a budget of $1.4 billion as Senior Vice-President of Products and Sales, Özmen was instrumental in the company’s successful IPO. He also started the international sales arm of the company. He was later sent to Europe to start Priceline Europe in London. Özmen holds a MS degree in Industrial Engineering from LSU and a BSc degree in Civil Engineering from Istanbul Technical University.

How would you assess the importance of Turkey to Microsoft?

Our growth is double that of the addressable market in Turkey, which grew at 9% on average. We have grown at about 21% annually on average over recent years. With that, Microsoft Turkey's prominence has increased in the Microsoft network. As a result, Turkey is now categorized in the emerging cluster, which also includes China, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, India, and Mexico. More Microsoft resources have also started coming into the country. Microsoft then started to evaluate different R&D opportunities in Turkey, especially in the education arena. We have already invested in Koç University's R&D center, ATOM, and several other university projects. Also, we have an innovation center in our Microsoft Ankara office, where we support start-ups with our technologies. We believe that the FATİH project, an initiative to get more technology into public education, also creates R&D opportunities focused on education. With 20 years of experience in Turkey, Microsoft has a strong presence in the country through its partnership network, and currently has around 11,000 technology partners, both small and large. These businesses then utilize our products to reach their potential, improving their sales, cost structure, and infrastructure. In that sense, Microsoft's ecosystem is worth approximately $7 billion, which is quite a large number if you consider that it represents about 55% of the total market. Compared to other technology players in the market, we are significantly larger. Microsoft is viewed as an innovation leader in the market. As part of our investment in Turkey, we launched Turkey's first online and free app development program, called Open Academy, two years ago. Currently, Open Academy has over 130,000 registrants and more than 5,000 graduates who have already published theirs apps on Windows Store.

What are the main factors behind this growth in Turkey?

There are two main drivers. Number one is that Microsoft Turkey has a very large consultancy business. We employ architects that go to companies and can basically implement the most sophisticated technology initiatives that the companies want to implement. When I first arrived, I saw it as a great asset to be able to go to companies and then move them into much different areas. The architects that we employ are the crème de la crème—top of the market professionals. By doing it that way, we became very mission critical in the companies that we operate. The second driver has come about through our pro-active work. I went to 14 cities in Turkey, and in each I selected around 50 companies, five sectors, and identified about 700 target companies. Out of those 700 companies, we went to those that have a high turnover and low EBITDA and helped them to increase their bottom line by using technology, which changed the conversation. By adding more value to their products and becoming more competitive, Turkish companies have a much better chance of competing in international markets. That part of our business has been growing by 47% every three years, which is a huge number.

Microsoft globally invested $3 billion in cloud computing in 2013. Where does Turkey figure into plans to grow the cloud?

We see four megatrends in the next 10 years. One is cloud computing, another is mobility, followed by big data, and finally social media. All of our strategies operate around those four megatrends. Cloud computing is at the core of the whole thing because, for mobility to work properly, we need the cloud. We have been adapting to the cloud much faster than anybody else has within the sector. The cloud is more accessible because you pay for as much as you use. It gives you the latest, most advanced technology at your fingertips. Therefore, when we go to a company, they can take that technology, plug in to wherever they want, and immediately improve processes. Our customers start seeing the return on their investment immediately.

“ The architects that we employ are the crème de la crème—top of the market professionals. "

What are your plans to expand your mobile division in Turkey?

Mobile smartphone penetration in Turkey is a very big strategy for us. Smartphones represent 57% of total phones sold here. There is a major migration toward tablets and smartphones. It is a very important strategy for us, both on the commercial and consumer side, to get involved in that industry.

What are your goals for 2014?

We have grown in terms of turnover. In 2014, we are looking to bring more Microsoft assets into Turkey, develop our staff, and give back to society. The Microsoft Turkey Open Academy program will also grow. We are working with the Minister of Education to turn it into a curriculum for high schools. On the industrial front, the migration of cloud computing is a priority. Companies completely understand the benefits of technology and can compete better in foreign markets. The country has very good fundamentals, a young population, and more. Hopefully, we will grow and shape the future of the country with the better usage of technology.