Blue water, green hills, a couple of remote villages – the view from the airplane window is positively idyllic. But as we descend, the built-up areas get noticeably denser, the green spaces get fewer, and the container ships multiply on the Sea of Marmara. They wait for days on end just to maneuver through the Bosporus a few kilometers further east. On the shipping lanes to the Black Sea, congestion reigns supreme. Welcome to Istanbul!
The bustle on the water is nothing compared to the volume of traffic on land. Bumper to bumper, the endless procession of cars crawls along roads that are perilously narrow in places. It shares the cramped space with mopeds, pedestrians, here and there even with streetcar tracks. There’s no overlooking the fact: in Istanbul, every hour is rush hour. Traffic dominates the city and the everyday life of its approximately 14 million inhabitants.
Customer relationship and trust as a success factor
Anyone who helps to provide a viable commuter transportation system here can win friends for life – or business partners. “Did you know that thyssenkrupp is the strategic partner of the Istanbul metro system?” asks Çetin Nazikkol. Raised in the Ruhr area, for almost two years he’s been the CEO of the thyssenkrupp Regional Office in Turkey. If you’re helping to keep the metro running, that means good business for you too.
According to Nazikkol, that’s not because of technology, but because of a company’s real business assets: customer relationships and trust. First-class products, outstanding quality, and on-time delivery must in any case form the basic preconditions. “The decisive factor is putting the customer at the center of things,” says Nazikkol.
Customer relationships and trust have to be cultivated. That’s only possible on-site. “You can’t do that from Germany. Anyone who thinks you’d only need to fly over now and again to do business here is making a mistake. It just doesn’t work.” Respect also plays a major role – in Turkey especially, it’s a success factor that shouldn’t be underestimated. As far as his own company is concerned, Nazikkol’s primary focus is on the region – not the activities of individual business areas. “I have to find out where we at thyssenkrupp can slot in around here, and how we can make the best out of it.” That’s why it’s noticeable that several of the Group’s units are more active here than others, and some are hardly involved here at all. From a Groupwide viewpoint, Turkey is in any case a market of the future par excellence, and especially for Steel Europe.
That’s because the country has a lot to offer. For ten years, it’s been able to point to stable economic growth of over four percent annually. In terms of economic power, Turkey now ranks seventeenth globally. The aim over the next few years is to achieve a ranking in the top ten. The geographic location is an added bonus. From Turkey, over one billion people are within four hours’ reach.
This is a vast market that, besides Europe, above all stretches to Russia, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as well. Turkish companies have already been active for a long time in nearly all of these markets of the future. If you want to tap into them, there’s the chance to cooperate with a promising Turkish partner who is planning new projects and requires modern technologies and materials. “That’s where we have to make our move, and quickly at that,” says Nazikkol. “This is precisely the way Asian firms do it, and furthermore they use Turkey as a way of breaking into the European market. Germany is one of Turkey’s most important trading partners, and vice versa. Both sides depend heavily on the other and are well aware of the fact.” Çetin Nazikkol shows a selfie taken an hour earlier. Next to him are a former Mayor of Hamburg and an ex-Federal Chairman of the German political party, Alliance ’90/The Greens. Forging links with political and economic organizations in both countries, building networks, and creating partnerships – all these form part of Nazikkol’s job as well.
On the way to Gebze, where thyssenkrupp Materials Services has established a presence, the traffic runs through high-rise districts, interspersed with half-finished or ready-to-occupy skyscrapers. Gebze is actually over 60 kilometers away, but Istanbul is devouring more and more of the surrounding region, and on the Anatolian side it’s already almost touching this industrial suburb. It’s easy to believe that the most successful business sector in Turkey is the construction industry. After China, Turkey holds second place in the list of the world’s 250 biggest construction firms. The thyssenkrupp Materials Services business area has recognized Turkey’s potential and is pursuing a new strategy, with import, resale, and constructing a warehouse as future possibilities. At present, Materials Services is using existing business contacts to sound out the increased demand for carbon steel and other special steel types. Contacts with suppliers to the automotive industry have already been in place for nearly 20 years.
Turkey has since developed into a key export market for flat steel. “Special steels such as high-strength grades are just the kind of niche market in which Steel Europe can assert itself,” says Esra Çakal, responsible for technical and commercial advice to automotive clients in Turkey. Besides Ford, Hyundai, Honda, and suppliers, Toyota in particular is being supplied with special grades by Steel Europe. There are currently also in-depth talks taking place with prospective customers. The automotive industry is Turkey’s biggest exporter and receives strong support from the government. Major investment projects in steels are in the pipeline for the near future, for which Duisburg expertise is in demand: hybrids, electrical steel, lightweight construction. “The research findings of our InCar®plus project must definitely be presented in Turkey as well,” says Çakal. “Sure, we don’t have the development departments of the big-name car firms over here. But we’ve got several thousand suppliers, and with their products you can build a complete car.”
With huge construction projects afoot in the Istanbul megalopolis and elsewhere in the country, the opportunities for Steel Europe look particularly bright. The city’s third airport is already under construction. With capacity for over 150 million passengers, it aims to set a new world record and cater for three times as many travelers as the German hub in Frankfurt. An equally vast undertaking is the highway from Istanbul to Izmir, which will include a fourth massive suspension bridge over the Bosporus.
Moreover, the congested central area with its non-stop traffic chaos offers ideal conditions for the InnoCity project, a steel infrastructure concept from thyssenkrupp for the urban mobility of the future. Because of the high risk of earthquakes, up to six million houses countrywide must be demolished and rebuilt over the next few years. And on top of this, Turkey aims to generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2023, among other things by investing in wind power. In other words: there’s no shortage of future work for Steel Europe in Turkey.