“Most Turks see themselves as Europeans. The population is young, has similar consumer needs to those in other European countries and values the quality of Swiss products,” says Suhail El Obeid, summarizing the initial situation. With 80 million inhabitants, the country’s population is the same as Germany’s. The S-GE expert does not see size alone as an important argument for entering the market, but rather emphasizes its geographical proximity to Switzerland. Turkey's geographical location offers decisive advantages, especially in times of Covid-19, when many companies are rethinking their supply chains.
While the country on the Bosporus may not be a classic entry market, companies offering a good idea or a specific product can quickly achieve success in Turkey. “If, for example, you already export to Eastern Europe, then entering the Turkish market is also perfectly feasible,” says Suhail El Obeid.
Turkey is attractive for these industries
Turkey is an industrialized nation. Demand for machinery is huge. Numerous, very large infrastructure projects are currently being implemented. In addition to the expansion of the infrastructure, demand is greatest in the agricultural, automotive, medical technology and pharmaceutical sectors. An overview:
- Medtech: Demand for medical products is considerable. Numerous local hospitals want cutting-edge technology and top quality and can afford it. Since these products are intended to function over a longer period of time, many are prepared to pay the comparatively high prices for Swiss products.
- Cleantech: Where many people live - over 15 million people live in the greater Istanbul area - there is also a lot of waste. Water treatment and waste-to-energy are important issues. For example, a large waste-to-energy plant was recently opened in Istanbul, which was implemented with Swiss participation.
- Infrastructure: Numerous major infrastructure projects are currently in the pipeline, for instance the extension of the Istanbul metro. Once completed, Istanbul’s metro network will be the third largest in the world after Beijing and Shanghai.
- Smart Technology: Numerous Turkish cities, from Istanbul or Izmir to Ankara, are planning to develop into smart cities. This also applies to the communications infrastructure, which is already being greatly expanded in many places. Keywords include: G5, techno-hubs and tech-cities or e-government, for example the Istanbul Card. This card covers everything, from ID, driving license and insurance cards to metro tickets. One card fits all - using the Istanbul Card, all communication with the authorities can take place digitally, too; citizens no longer have to go to the authorities in person. There is huge potential for Swiss companies that are well-positioned in this area.
- Textile industry: The textile industry is one of Turkey's traditional and still important business sectors. There are many opportunities for Swiss companies with innovative technologies in this sector.
Customs duties and currency
The Turkish lira is still under pressure, making imported products more expensive. Customs duties also pose challenges. “The authorities want to protect local production with ever new additional tariffs. Changes are often possible, which can leave goods stranded in customs.” Correct declarations and certifications are therefore particularly important and companies should allow for appropriate lead times.
Huge cultural diversity
Turkey is characterized by its huge cultural diversity, with Suhail El Obeid citing European, Mediterranean, Asian or Arab influences. While there are considerable cultural differences throughout the country, hospitality is very important everywhere. Mutual trust is therefore correspondingly important. For the S-GE expert, one thing is clear: “Although a lot of business is done over a meal, business is business and the private sphere is clearly separated from business. Cultural differences are no obstacle, for business relationships.” But there is also no denying that Swiss companies interested in entering the market definitely need a strong local business partner.