Digital Bosphorus: Opportunities and Innovation in Turkey

Pictured above, from left to right, Sina Afra, Alemsah Öztürk and Cenk Bayrakdar.

As Turkey is rapidly becoming a global power, the growth of its online presence is equally fast-paced as it is impressive. Turkey has now 35 million internet users who spend an average of 32,7 hours/month online - ranking 3rd in Europe behind the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Consequently, Turkey is in 2011 the second fastest growing e-commerce market in the world, behind India. If widespread credit card use (There are 51 million of them in Turkey) and good delivering infrastructure are credited for this, a consensus emerged on the panel that the Turkish youth also provide enormous opportunity for e-commerce. Indeed, the Turkish median age is just above 29 years when it’s of 44 years for Germany.

This youth drives several aspects of the Internet growth in Turkey. For instance, it makes Turkey the 6th most active country on Facebook. Mobile device are spreading fast, as 1 out of every 3 phones sold in Turkey is a smartphone. If Android is going strong, Blackberry is popular with the youth. For Nevzat Aydin of Yemeksepeti.com, it is because Turks are natural early adopters, “if you miss out on a new product, when the topics comes up in a discussion, it makes you feel inferior.”

In addition, “Turks are not afraid to interact with brands online, there’s a huge potential”, says serial entrepreneur Alemsah Öztürk who added “the Turkish TV culture translated well online. Housewives are now watching Youtube and mobile TV.” Sidar Sahin from Peak Games pitched in on the topic, “for emerging markets like Turkey, e-commerce and social gaming are consider entertainment, a new world by their customers” who may not be able to enjoy the same level of facilities (for sports, culture etc.) than Western citizens.

The key position of Turkey at the crossroads of continents and culture is a crucial assets for business in Turkey. Cenk Bayraktar explained that Turkey is a hub or gateway  because Westerners feel comfortable doing business in Turkey which becomes a gateway to the Middle-East and former Soviet republics within the Turkish sphere of influence.

Innovation is also thriving in Turkey. Cenk Bayrakdar announced “last week, we launched a Blackbery NFC wallet to cater to the 20 million who don’t have a credit card”. The growing markets, opportunities and entrepreneurial culture are the reasons why successful Turkish entrepreneurs stay in Turkey instead of going West. However, a large challenge remains, the extremely high level of competition. “Turkey is a country of digital darwinism” Sina Afra warned.

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DLD2011 - The Big Picture DLD (Digital-Life-Design) is a global conference network on innovation, digital media, science and culture which connects business, creative and social leaders, opinion-formers and investors for crossover conversation and inspiration. Chairmen of DLD are publisher Hubert Burda and serial digital investor Yossi Vardi. DLD has been founded by Stephanie Czerny and Marcel Reichart in 2005.

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