Döner kebab included in ties with Iraqi Kurds

Döner kebab included in ties with Iraqi Kurds

ARBIL - Hürriyet Daily News
Döner kebab included in ties with Iraqi Kurds

A chef cuts the döner kebab at a major franchise’s first branch in Arbil. Company photos

Many believe Turkish companies’ interest in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq is limited to oil and gas, but Turkish businesspeople there are diversifying their activities with new investments encouraged by state incentives, according to company representatives.

Turkey’s Baydöner, the latest recipient of the Economy Ministry’s Turquality fund, would like to add more branches to its two existing locations in the territory, if security allows it, said Chairman Levent Yılmaz during a press tour to Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

The market in the region, especially in Iraq, is still hungry and open to Turkish investments, and a strong demand in the country could mean even more business for Turkey-based business leaders in other Iraqi cities as well. Arbil remains a good choice for business, especially for food chains, which prefer malls as locations.

“We have a unity of cultures, and a very strong image here,” said the döner kebab chain’s chairman.

“The Turkish governments’ acts have a very strong positive effect on people here, and the Turkish soaps too. We want to benefit from that.”


Levent Yılmaz (R) and Feridun Tuncer are the founders
of Baydöner that has many branches in Turkey.

Still, even in Arbil, several difficulties remain for Turkish brands. Getting in and out of the city is quite difficult, and customs can be a trial. Bringing in products is very difficult. And once brought in, customers don’t “just line up at your doorstep” when you open up a new business in a country like Iraq, Yılmaz said.

That makes state support even more crucial to business leaders willing to put down roots in Middle Eastern countries, he said, while outlining the extensive backing the brand received once it was chosen for the Turquality project. “Turquality offers both monetary funding, as well as taking on your advertisement and your administrative needs.”

The motive behind the generous hand of the government could be summarized as “trying to make sure [the companies] represent Turkey properly, and add up to Turkey’s value,” Yılmaz said, adding that the funding covers half of the initial investment, advertisement costs and rent, while also helping to build up staff number. “[Turquality] will give the brand a strong push,” Yılmaz said.

Nearly one in two foreign firms in northern Iraq belongs to Turks, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı said in January in response to a parliamentary question.

Turkish companies there are active in construction, trade, electricity, energy, logistics, transportation, tourism, marketing and promotion, food, shopping mall management, consultancy, banking, car rentals, and insurance, he said.