Visitors to Turkey’s famous bazaars can attest to the array of elegant products on display. Local artisans draw on centuries-old traditions that give their leather goods, jewelry, carpets, textiles, furniture, cosmetics and many other products such a special quality. In fact, travelers buying items in bulk for resale abroad make up a significant share of the total exports in some categories of products. Business and economic leaders saw an opportunity in this success and, in 2004, launched a program called TURQUALITY®, which aims to bring Turkey’s top brands to markets worldwide.
With the vision of creating 10 global brands in 10 years, TURQUALITY® aims to promote the value of Turkish companies to a global audience, as well as helping them by offering strategic, operational, organizational and technological consultancy services. With contributions from top global consulting firms such as Werner International and Deloitte, together Turkey’s Ministry of Economy, Industrial Designers Society and the Turkish Exporters Assembly created a set of criteria for performance and quality, and selected the country’s top brands and designers to be promoted globally under the TURQUALITY® trademark. A total of 95 brands representing 83 companies have been chosen for promotion over the past decade, with another 37 brands representing 34 companies receiving support from the program.
One area where Turkey has enjoyed success on a global stage is in the production of leather goods. Turkey has been an important center for the crafting of leather since at least the Byzantine era, explains Lemi Tolunay, Chairman of İstanbul Leather and the Leather Products Exporters’ Union. Today, the industry generates $4 billion in total revenues, making Turkey the second most important leather producer in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Burak Çelet, General Manager of Desa Deri, the sole leather company admitted into the TURQUALITY program, points out that Turkey has until recently been “the destination for Europe for opening price point businesses in textiles and leather goods” but that it is “is not a low-cost country anymore.”
“Turkey has to move away from this. People have to figure out how to sell higher value-added products, which firstly means concentrating on R&D. In the fashion business, we have to concentrate on design and innovation,” he continues.
“We have amazing tanneries in Turkey, but it’s not just leather, we combine it with fashion and design,” says Mr. Tolunay. “As a manufacturing country starting from the 1990s, we have learned a lot about developing a brand. Then we became more conscious of our product and the quality of it.”
The result has been a proliferation of Turkish brands producing distinctive, high-end leather goods with global cachet. Recently, Turkey’s Leather Promotion Board teamed up with some of the country’s top designers, like Bora Aksu, to showcase products at trade fairs around the world. The focus on value-added design, known as the “Turkish Effect,” attracted much attention, particularly in Asia, where Turkish designers are becoming increasingly influential.
Turkey’s export success has not been limited to consumer products. A global leader in prefabricated construction panels, Kingspan-İzopoli has found eager customers for its building materials across the Middle East, Europe and Asia, and now draws about half of all its revenues from abroad. After its 2005 partnership with Irish firm Kingspan, it became one of only a few dozen manufacturers in the world producing FM (Factory Mutual) and LPCB-certified fire safety rated panels. Dr Suat Kıroğlu, Vice Chairman of Kingspan-İzopoli, sees this advantage as a cornerstone of future development in the Middle East.
Another Turkish brand ascending in foreign markets is appliance and consumer electronics manufacturer Beko. In the five years since it joined the TURQUALITY® program, Beko has become the third-largest white goods brand in Europe. “The work that TURQUALITY® has undertaken has been instrumental in demonstrating the high quality and value of our business globally, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to communicate this,” says Levent Çakıroğlu, CEO of Arçelik Group, manufacturer of Beko products.
Consistent with the larger effort underway among many of Turkey’s exporters, Mr Çakıroğlu emphasizes, first and foremost, an outstanding product: “One of the most fundamental components for building a successful brand is ensuring that your product or service is of a high quality level and meets the specific needs of your customers. We have been able to achieve this over a number of years by our willingness to listen to and adapt to the local needs of our consumers.”