Turkish industry suffered a great loss while bidding farewell to 2012.
Asım Kocabıyık, the founder and honorary president of Borusan Holding, passed away at the age of 88.
I saw him for the last time at a concert of the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra (BİFO) last month.
Kocabıyık could barely stand during the concert. He probably did not want to miss the concert featuring renowned actor Ali Poyrazoğlu as guest conductor, part of the special concerts BİFO stages once a year to raise funds for students.
However, Kocabıyık did not give up his craving for music despite his illness.
Kocabıyık was a doyen in Turkish industry. And along with that, he was a figure who devoted himself to education, culture, the arts and the environment.
He was among the founders of Turkey’s foundation for reforestation to combat erosion and the protection of natural habitats (TEMA), Turkey’s Family Planning Association and the Afyon Educational Foundation. Also, he was on the boards of trustees of the Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation (İKSV) and the Turkish Education Volunteers Foundation (TEGV).
Few years ago, we organized a trip with Kocabıyık, his wife and a group of journalists to Afyon’s Tazlar village, the place where Kocabıyık was born. The aim of this trip was to observe the “rural development project” conducted in the village with the collaboration of Kocabıyık and TEMA.
In this joint project, farmers were trained in modern agricultural methods, fruitful irrigation and purification methods and horticulture.
And during that visit, I learned that the founder of Borusan Holding, which created employment for 6,000 people and had $4.3 billion of endorsement in 2011, was playing on the streets of this village in bare feet.
When narrating his childhood days, Kocabıyık said, “I had no shoes, just like the other children in the village. The village was a deprived place, one could not even think of buying a new pair of shoes there. The only concern of the families was to feed their children.”
After having a “shoeless” childhood in Tazlar, which was then transformed into one of the most modern villages in Turkey with his moral and material support, Kocabıyık firstly migrated to Afyon’s city center with his family and then moved to Istanbul.
Kocabıyık financed his educational costs by selling various items like nails and grape syrup during his high school and university years, and he was only 20 when he took on a duty at the company his father founded in Istanbul. The success of Kocabıyık is actually a good example that illustrates that Turkey is a land of new opportunities.
However, the thing that impressed me most about his life was the vision he had of arts and culture along with education (He financed the foundation of 13 schools, also he restored the library of Istanbul University’s School of Economics by financing 950,000 dollars.) that dates back many years.
Thanks to this vision, now we have great values such as the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra; Borusan Chamber Orchestra; Borusan Children’s Choir; Borusan Music House; Borusan Arts and Culture Center; and Turkey’s first office museum, Borusan Contemporary.
We are fortunate for the fact that esteemed Kocabıyık’s vision has been passed down to his son Ahmet Kocabıyık, who has been the CEO of Borusan Holding since 2001, and his daughter Zeynep Hamedi, chair of the board of directors of Borusan Arts.