Turkey – a MINT economy

Turkey – a MINT economy

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shutterstock_138593228-300x200Working in the MINT countries – a Language Connect perspective

It came as little surprise when Turkey was named in the group of countries next predicted to be the economic giants of the future by economist Jim O’Neill. Coined MINTs, the group also includes Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria and comes some 10 years after the acronym BRICs was first used for the 21st century’s new economic powerhouses.

Seeing the long-term potential of Turkey, Language Connect opened our Istanbul office in 2012. Our initial rationale was to have operations coverage straddling European and Asian time zones and to gain access to a highly educated, multilingual talent pool containing Europe’s largest population of under 25s.

Since opening in Istanbul, the experience of working with fast-moving, vibrant Turkish companies has surpassed even our own optimistic expectations. We’ve seen first-hand the unique characteristics that make Turkey’s potential so exceptional.

For a start, Turkish businesses think big. For them, trading internationally is second nature. Companies such as Turkish Airlines have become world leaders in growth terms by entering new markets. The airline now flies to 104 countries, more than any other carrier. Beko, a manufacturer of household appliances has production facilities in 14 countries including Russia and China. It sells 4.2m washing machines a year in more than 100 countries including Germany where it is even taking market share from domestic giants such as Bosch and Siemens.

Turkey has a rich history of multinational and multicultural trade. Key to this is an appreciation for local tastes and a willingness to adapt product lines and services accordingly. Visitors to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul can confidently expect to be greeted by a trader speaking to them in their own native language, regardless of their nationality (I even witnessed a shop owner speak Japanese on my last visit).

Peak Games' online version of Tarneeb, a traditional card game popular in the Middle East

Peak Games’ online version of Tarneeb, a traditional card game popular in the Middle East

One company that embodies this quality of cultural adaptation in its business model is Peak Games, a social media gaming company that has burst out of Istanbul’s vibrant tech start-up scene. Peak Games creates gaming experiences that are culturally and linguistically relevant to consumers in emerging markets within Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. For instance, they are one of the few companies to offer online board and card games that are unique to the region such as Okey and Tarneeb. Like US rival Zynga, Peak offers a game whose users can build farms. But Peak’s version is available in Arabic, it runs special promotions over Ramadan and excludes vineyards or pigs from its farms. The strategy has paid off, Peak dominates its target regions and has over 30 million active monthly users of its games, behind only the global top two, Zynga and King, maker of ‘Candy Crush’.

Turkey is undergoing rapid transformation and growth. With these shifts inevitably come challenges and bumps in the road. The political turbulence that erupted into Taksim Square last summer has brought the state’s approach to democracy under question and inevitably led to frayed nerves amongst outsiders considering investing or doing business in the country. Growth such as Turkey’s however rarely comes unaided without support and backing from Government. Turkish Airlines has heavily aligned its growth strategy with Turkey’s foreign and trade policy, for instance, flying to destinations where there are Turkish investments. With infrastructure projects in the pipeline that include the world’s largest airport and new transportation links over the Bosphorous, Istanbul with the state’s backing looks set to re-emerge as a world-class hub for trade and commerce.

British exporters considering targeting Turkey for their international growth are in good company. Richard Branson recently announced the expansion of Virgin Mobile and its Megastores business into Turkey whilst Martin Sorrell was quoted stating growth rates of WPP’s business in the country by 20% year-on-year.

The finer points of Britain’s commercial relationship with Turkey might be revised if and when it becomes a full EU member, but after years of eagerly knocking on the door Turkey’s politicians and its people have recently become less deferential.  Former Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış is on record as stating that “The EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU”, and recent polling suggests that the majority of Turkish people have a negative view of the Union and its institutions. If Turkey’s star continues to rise, then those Europeans debating whether to let this new member into the club may find their grudging invitation being refused.

Five years ago Robert Ward, Global Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit, coined the term CIVETS for the grouping of Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. Classed as the young, vibrant economies to watch, the CIVETS never quite convinced as the new BRICs. But like an eye-catching actor in an ensemble cast, Turkey continued to move forward. The MINTs offer youth, vibrancy and in the case of Turkey, a healthy proportion of the super-rich. Forbes magazine notes that Istanbul has the fourth largest number of billionaires of any city in the world. Balancing wealth, aspiration and potential, Turkey offers a muscular competitiveness lacking in many economies both to its west and east.

As Jim O’Neill comments: “It is in the likes of the MINT Countries – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – along with China and the other so-called BRIC countries where there is the greatest potential for export growth prospects. Even though there are reasonable signs of recovery in most of the Eurozone, these countries are not going to be great export markets for us even if they are currently the largest markets in absolute terms. Beyond their own challenges of sustaining domestic demand, most of them have just as strong a need as the UK to export elsewhere in the world.”

To discover how Language Connect can help you excel in Turkey and the MINT countries, contact David Brett dbrett@languageconnect.net

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