20 April 2011
5.8 Practical recommendations
Get acquainted with Muslim and business calendars
While most Turks are Muslim, many of them, especially those in the business and retail sectors, have Western-style business practices. Hong Kong companies that intend to do business with Turkey, however, need to observe the Turkish business calendar, as Turkish holidays do not exactly match those of the West. While the official holidays there include some national days, such as holidays for the celebration of Republic and Victory, there are also two important religious holidays, namely Seker Bayrami or Ramazan Bayrami (three days) and Kurban Bayrami (four days), which are observed by most Turks and business people in the country. The dates of these religious holidays occur 10-11 days earlier for each Western calendar year, because they follow the Muslim lunar calendar, which is different from the West. As most Turks have their religious rituals and celebrations during these festivals, Hong Kong companies are advised to observe such periods when doing business with Turkey.
Jump start with “Istanbul” rather than the “entire Turkey”
As the country’s largest city, Istanbul is the business and financial capital of Turkey. While it only has a population of some 13 million (or 18% of the country’s total population), Istanbul, handling most of the country’s international and wholesale trade, as well as services business, accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s GDP and more than a quarter of the country’s total consumption expenditure. In view of the potential, an increasing number of Turkish and foreign retail operators are targeting Istanbul’s consumer market. Moreover, the targeted customers of most branded products are largely the high-income consumers living in Istanbul, instead of the entire country. Coupled with its status as an economic capital and distribution centre in the country, Istanbul rather than Turkey as whole seems to be the right market and possesses the appropriate purchasing power for Hong Kong products.
Avoid fierce competition by product and brand differentiation
Although Hong Kong has a long history of trading with Turkey, the influx of cheap Chinese importers has given Turkish consumers the perception that goods from Asia (with the exception of Japan and South Korea) are largely inexpensive items with compromised quality. Turkish consumers therefore make little distinction between goods from the Chinese mainland and those from Hong Kong. To avoid fierce (price) competition with indigenous mainland suppliers and tap into the expanding higher-income group, Hong Kong companies should strengthen their offerings with additional features, functions and better design. More importantly, more time and effort could be required for Hong Kong companies to convince their Turkish counterparts of the value of paying for premium features of Hong Kong products.
Build a long-term relationship
While Turkish businesspeople are friendly and accommodating, they are not used to hard-sell tactics and an overpassionate manner. Given the great importance attached to the place of family in the Muslim world, it is a courtesy to extend a friendly inquiry about the family of your Turkish business counterparts to kick off formal business negotiations. Though Turkish businesspeople are rather straightforward in negotiations, they do not like to feel rushed when conducting business and prefer to cultivate a long-term friendship along with business cooperation. In this context, e-mails and faxes are insufficient, while face-to-face meetings remain essential in sealing a business deal with a Turkish businessperson. For new-to-the-market Hong Kong companies, visiting trade fairs, either in Hong Kong or Turkey, is one of the most effective channels for meeting Turkish buyers.