New initiatives for the east and southeast
In the year 1996, in the eastern and southeastern regions of Turkey, “unresolved murders” were commonplace. The “East Report” by the head of Sabancı Holding, Sakıp Sabancı, had just been issued at the time. An enormous cycle of violence was about to end in the southeast.
The former head of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Mehmet Yıldırım, founded a company with 200 famous industrialists, including Sabancı, Koç and Eczacıbaşı, called Doğu Holding. It was founded to operate in the region in such fields as frozen food, green housing, floriculture and tourism; it also invested in the poultry sector and hotels over the years.
Over the years, as a result of internal clashes and regional issues, the initiative failed. Executives of Doğu Holding had to face cases that dragged on for many years.
This holding was quiet for a long time.
In 2011, the executive board changed, the company was restructured and Ahmet Yüzbaşıoğlu became its head. I had the opportunity to talk to Yüzbaşıoğlu as the holding was becoming active again.
Since 2015, they have initiated projects not only in the east but also in low-income regions, Yüzbaşıoğlu said.
The number of partners in the holding has been decreased from 200 to 60, but groups like Koç and Sabancı have remained. The holding is establishing new investment projects with figures such as Ali Koç and Faruk Eczacıbaşı, while they have also been in close contact with the government. They have also formed a call center in Diyarbakır.
They will also go into agriculture, centers of attraction and logistic projects. They have pursued intense cooperation with public institutions, universities and nongovernmental organizations as well as project firms.
“The government has established a comprehensive investment climate in Turkey. The holding, in this investment period, will undertake significant responsibilities as a top umbrella organization,” he said.
In the years in which it was formed, Doğu Holding was regarded as a magic wand. Then, however, a huge disappointment was experienced. In this new era, business is even tougher in the region and in Turkey’s economy. New stories do not create any enthusiasm. Imagining has become almost impossible. I hope I am wrong.
The Turkish Contractors Association (TMB) is a 136-member professional organization that has been active for 65 years. Leading Turkish contractors are members of this association, undertaking 70 percent of domestic infrastructure and contracting jobs. Member companies undertake 90 percent of international Turkish contracts in 115 countries. The association convened recently for its 32nd general assembly to select its new administration.
Mithat Yenigün was again elected the president but this time the executive board was made up of the second generation, such as Nihat Özdemir’s daughter Ebru Özdemir, Erhan Boysanoğlu’s son Mert Boysanoğlu, Ali Üstay’s son Murat Üstay, the late Mete Bora’s son Selim Bora, Yılmaz Çebi’s daughter Süheyla Çebi and Ersin Arıoğlu’s son Başar Arıoğlu. The first generation, which founded the companies and who worked hard especially after the 1980s to make them international, are not on the Supreme Advisory Board.
The second generation is taking over the management of their own companies, Yenigün said. “It is time to hand over to them. We have been unfair to our children. Since we started from zero and went through very tough times, we wanted to prevent them from failure by being overprotective. But now our children are successful businesspeople. They are experts in their fields.”
They were also keen on the representation of women, Yenigün said. “Two women, Ebru Özdemir from Limak and Süheyla Çebi from Dorçe, are on our executive board. We will increase the number of women.” The contracting sector still has some negative perception of the second generation, but will soon adopt a new vision, he believes. Markets such as Iraq, Libya and Russia, where contracts and business came readily, no longer exist, he explained. New markets have to be found and that will only be possible with young people.
Turkish contractors who have a share of 4.6 percent in the world market maybe will be able to create brands in the international area with this change of blood.