Do boycotts make sense?
These days it is difficult to be a technology retailer. On one hand, there is the fluctuating Turkish Lira/United States dollar parity and on the other hand there is a call to boycott products “Made in the U.S.A.” They are certainly paying a price, but are they paying it in vain, or does this boycott really make sense?
This is a delicate matter. Economically speaking, the Turkish boycott on U.S. services and products cannot hurt the U.S. as new sanctions by the U.S. can hurt Turkey. We are not among the top 30 trading partners of the U.S. and objectively speaking, they can face the consequences of not selling anything on the Turkish market.
However, there is a far reaching political side to this boycott. With the calls to boycott U.S. products, we have seen support from various countries such as Germany, Russia and Pakistan. If Turkey wins the hearts and minds of many other countries who are already very disturbed by the current American leadership then the U.S. may think twice before escalating things further.
As a person who would one day like to see a unified world where there would be no nations and borders, it is sad to witness these aggressive actions.
However, the boycott calls have opened up new debates and I find them useful to talk about.
Should we choose national products over foreign products?
This question becomes much easier to answer if the products are almost identical or if the nationally produced product is better than the foreign brand. It is very evident in the case of fruit juices, for example. In the case of companies like Tamek, the fruits are produced in Turkey, the bottling is made in Turkey, the company is 100 percent Turkish and the product tastes better. In this case, no one would have a difficult time in choosing.
However, this question is harder to answer: Should we choose a product just because it is made in our country even if we know it is inferior to a foreign-made rival?
Unfortunately, in almost every technology related product and service we have to face this question, instead of the one about fruit juices.
There is a catch 22 with this choice. If I choose a Turkish brand phone, I would support the boycott, but it could harm me and my business. I may not receive the same benefits that I could have received if I had chosen a foreign brand. The productivity loss in turn could harm Turkey worse than the original cost of the foreign good or service. How can I run a business without chosing Microsoft, Google or Yandex? Whose e-mail service could I use?
These questions cannot be answered in a few days during a boycott call.
We should have asked ourselves these type of questions long before. We should have had a strategy and we should have given people decent options long before.
The most striking example is Pardus, our Linux-based national operating system. How many companies are using Pardus, aside from a handful of government agencies, even though it is as good as its rivals? If the government had a decent strategy to support Pardus, maybe most Turkish companies would have switched to Pardus years ago.
Calling for boycotts in cycles of a few years might be good in proving a point or taking a stand, but it is not a replacement for sound technology vision and strategy.
I believe as a country, we need sound strategic actions that would enable Turkish companies to produce products, services and software that could rival those of foreign origins, more than angry boycotts.