Discover: Turkey

23 Sep 2014|Cyrille Pinson

Turkey is a place of sharp contrasts, which can’t be boxed into Europe, Middle East or Asia. Finding the right angle to crack this market can be challenging, but rewarding.

Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the modern Turkish Republic by Ataturk in 1923, Turkey has acquired a wide range of western and secular values whilst retaining a significant Islamic influence on all facets of life. Combining these influences with their shared borders of Europe, Asia and the Middle East as well as varied ethnicities results in different cultures coexisting within the same country. The large cosmopolitan and coastal cities are rather secular and have more of a European feel, whilst the rest of the country displays cultural traits more aligned to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries.

The country is big, youthful and eagerly embracing new technology. Half of its 75m people are under 30, which takes the median age to 29 compared to 40 in the UK. Turkey is the seventh-largest national Facebook audience. Glued to their 3G mobiles, they enjoy interacting with brands online which makes for a very vibrant consumer market. Today nearly half the Turkish population uses the internet (up from just 14% in 2006) and they have acquired a taste for spending – the e-commerce market is booming, attracting venture capitalists and big players such as eBay and Amazon. But the rise of the Turkish digital community is under threat, after the Twitter and YouTube bans whose cases are only slowly being resolved.

This large domestic market makes Turkey a hot spot for investment, which, largely unaffected by the international crisis, has experienced exceptional growth over the past few years.

Its strategic location also makes it a major attraction for international businesses and brands such as IBM, Nestle and Coca-Cola, who have set up large hubs to cover the Middle Eastern region, East Asia and Africa. But not all investors find a return on their buck. The strength of Bakkals – Turkey’s equivalent to small convenience stores – and the tradition of cooking from scratch have presented several retailers like French supermarket chain Carrefour, with great challenges. Understanding the Turkish culture is crucial for foreign investment.

At the same time, Turkish businesses are looking to expand their footprint beyond the region. Turkish Airlines is on its way to making Istanbul a major aviation hub and has made waves with its innovative marketing campaigns and high profile sponsorship deals. Godiva’s acquisition by Űlker, the giant food and drinks conglomerate, has made history by being the first-ever acquisition of a well-known international brand by a Turkish company. Whilst Beko is also fast becoming a household name in white goods.

Turkey’s socio-economic influence is also growing in the wider region, enjoying a good image in the nearby countries of Central Asia, the Balkans and the Arab world. This is thanks to the model of Islamic democracy it represents as well as its popular TV productions that are translated and followed by very large audiences.

Turkey’s time has come and we can’t expect it to choose between being labelled European, Middle Eastern or Asian as this would be contrary to its very nature. Its strength lies in the multifaceted nature of its culture which will inevitably help it play a major role in an increasingly multicultural world.


Written by Cyrille Pinson, Associate Director, UK


Image Source: ThinkStock

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