ERHAN BINICI

Turkey 2021 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Erhan Binici, Founder of Ankaref, on Turkey's healthcare sector, long-term growth, and data collection processes.

From a business continuity standpoint, how has Ankaref's work in the healthcare sector and across the economy been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

For 10 years, we have been trying to establish infrastructure for a crisis like this. Ankaref works with a number of different sectors, so its ability to continue operating depends on where you look. For example, the company has ongoing business with the Ministry of Health, which is important; therefore, we are prioritizing our work with the ministry and focusing more on the health sector. The vaccine industry is in the spotlight now as the world searches for a COVID-19 vaccination. Ankaref has been working in the vaccine sector for a while now—our Vaccine Cold Chain and Inventory Tracking System (ATS) monitors 12,300 inventory locations and the cold chain system. Sensors track temperatures and locations of vaccines and connect via our call center if there is a problem. In addition, within the healthcare sector, we have patient and staff tracking systems, a medical inventory tracking system, and hospital textile and central inventory management systems.

Outside of the healthcare sector, how have Ankaref's operations been impacted?

Another key element of our operations is our concrete tracking service. While construction activity has slowed as a result of the pandemic, business is ongoing and our team is focusing on the cloud software management side. This enabled us to provide our service from home. We are relying heavily on the cloud for business continuity across our services, in sectors like defense, manufacturing, and logistics. Our smart home products are doing very well as everybody is now at home. We have end user products that can easily be sold on the internet and through mobile applications. In Turkey, some government institutions and private companies are still operating and they are looking for solutions during the epidemic.

What new solutions is Ankaref introducing to assist in a situation like the ongoing pandemic?

Given that the need for health services will continue to increase, Ankaref is developing solutions for the effects of COVID-19. We are especially focused on developing new solutions for telehealth. In the coming weeks, we will introduce a new online system with face-to-face patient observation. Using this system, patients will be able to have an online conference with doctors and even get advice or prescriptions. Notably, this system is applicable in all sectors. Numerous trends that were underway before the current global shutdown will only accelerate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For us, it means we will focus more on telehealth.

Over the long-term, where are you expecting to see the most growth for Ankaref?

The most important future market is the consumer market. By 2025, the average device quantity will be 20 per person. This take into account devices in consumers' homes that track things like temperature, humidity, gas control, and water flow. The gateway will be smart phones, and through the broader rollout of 5G, the consumer market will be increasingly accessible. After the crisis, life will go on but there will be an increased focus on developing smart cities. Cities that had smart solutions and were able to track people better have come out of the crisis in a better condition than those that didn't. We are working to address future demand for smart city solutions.

What is Ankaref's strategy for international growth?

From the start, our strategy has been to develop solutions for the Turkish market and then tailor and bring those solutions to foreign markets. For many years, we have been doing business in the Middle East but Europe is a more difficult market to enter because of the requirement differences. We have done a lot of international projects in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, and we are also present in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, who are asking for vaccine tracking systems. In the Turkish consumer market, we are present in approximately 3,000 Turkish houses. If we can increase that number to 20,000, we will have the scale to go to other countries for distribution. Turkey's relations with other countries is highly important for our export operations. Bilateral relationships with Middle Eastern countries impact us, so we would like to see strong ties and good diplomacy so that Turkish exporters can succeed.

What are Ankaref's most important institutional strengths that will allow it to grow in the future?

Process knowledge and data collection experience will be important for us in the future. In different fields, we have different teams of consultants with deep process knowledge – as companies continue along the path of investing in and implementing IoT solutions, our knowledge will be sought after. Then, as our solutions expand and grow, the data we gather will become more and more important. After COVID-19, our strategy will not change significantly, but we're expecting to see an increase in business.