Turkish expat rescue run

Dünya Executive - - COVER PAGE - HUSNIYE GUNGOR

Cafer Mahiroglu rides to rescue of ailing Markafoni, ‘Europeaniz­ation’ promised

Markafoni has been hitting the headlines for years with its purchase and full acquisitio­n by Naspers, then its closure and possible purchase by Sefamerve. All of a sudden, Cafer Mahiroglu, a Turkish entreprene­ur living in England, announced in a press conference in July that he had bought Markafoni. Mahiroglu defined the brand as “one of the first comers to the e-trade market and the biggest in terms of brand value: a big brand with 600 employees, a $150 million turnover and a purchase value of $270 million.”

He added that Markafoni, which was re-launched in August, would re-enter the market stronger than ever. However, Mahiroglu says the company has only opened its shutters for the time being and that big changes will be seen within three months after the dust has been removed from the floors and the shelves reorganize­d. Mahiroglu, who plans to invest another $15 million in Markafoni, told DUNYA Executive of his plans for the Turkish e-trade sector in which he took a giant step with this purchase.

We first heard Mahiroglu in the economy media as the name behind many products carrying the “Made in Turkey” tag that were sold in Primark, England’s economy clothing brand. He had started to produce for his own shops after he bought Select, which was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2007. Reaching a total of 250 stores spread across the UK, Select has an e-commerce site that began operations in 2008, even before the UK’s famous fashion brand, New Look. With this step, he says the business transforme­d from production to retail, then to e-commerce from there – and that 25% of turnover now comes from online sales.

“But the biggest handicap of e-commerce is trust and consumers are more confident in the e-commerce site than the brand they see on the street,” says Mahiroglu. Stating that time and the consumer will carry stores and brands in Turkey, he adds: “Veteran store owners who see this quickly and take up position will have taken a serious road ahead of other players.”

Fore gn fund beh nd fa lure

Mahiroglu, a modest person who prefers not to use big words, says his 10-plus years’ experience in this field has taught him to learn from his own as well as others’ mistakes. Talking about the existence of a distance shopping habit, which was started by catalog sales in Europe, where a significan­t part of his life has also passed, Mahiroglu says he has learned these processes by watching, listening and reading.

The man sees platforms such as Markafoni in a separate position in terms of e-commerce success and does not believe Markafoni has been unsuccessf­ul.

According to Mahiroglu, Markafoni would have been doing much better today if, rather than South African Naspers, it had been bought by a local fund. “Failure of a business that has its wheels turning properly, should be looked at based on its own internal dynamics,” says Mahiroglu, who adds that Markafoni is able to revive itself successful­ly because its structure remains intact. He thinks that is the reason for the website being able to function on its own, despite nothing yet having been done to it. So what will Mahiroglu change at Markafoni, which he “acquired to write a bigger success story in our country?”

One of the first changes in Markafoni will be a next-day delivery commitment. Consumers will be able find the products they see globally online as well as at Markafoni stores. Mahiroglu says the number of its brands will be increased within three months on a global basis and that Europe’s leading brands will start to be seen on its website. The Select brand, which owns 7% of the female ready-to-wear market in the UK, will showcase all of its categories and products on Markafoni’s site.

Customer satisfacti­on and loyalty is one of the most important issues for Markafoni. Mahiroglu says the company wants to bring a level of customer satisfacti­on where the customers have the final word. “The customer wants to know that he/she is valuable to the brand. Customer loyalty and a sense of belonging are processes that need to be conducted carefully.” For the time being, Mahiroglu is declining invitation­s to provide details of the projects Markafoni is planning to increase customer loyalty.

Ta lor-made exports the next th ng

“You are already integrated when you come to the finished product from the thread, but now you are integrated when you deliver the product to the customer,” says Mahiroglu, adding that for full integratio­n into industry 4.0, tailor-made exports must be achieved. As the first step towards tailor-made exports, Markafoni’s system will be integrated with Select’s system in the UK and Romania via ERP. Thus, when a product is placed in Markafoni, it can also be seen and bought by consumers in England. Even a local brand that does not export will be selling to consumers in Europe without opening a store. “Formerly I Turkified a European brand, now it is time to Europeaniz­e Turkish brands,” he says.

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