TUSIB member – Alp Arbatli, CEO of BEKO Ukraine discussed the Ukrainian home appliances market, the country’s investment climate, its market problems and the company’s goals in this interview.
In the Ukrainian white goods market, you are often referred to as Beko’s general manager of Ukraine. Where did you work before Ukraine?
I began working at Arçelik in December 2004 as Sales Executive in Balkans Region. I was managing distributors in the relevant countries from Turkey, Arçelik HQ. Through the years, I oversaw Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Slovenia and Montenegro. We significantly increased our brand awareness and market share over those years. After that in December 2012, I was appointed as Sales Manager of North and Central America. Again, through distributors, we focused on the USA and Canada markets specifically with Blomberg brand and established some OEM partnerships to very high-end brands such as Viking. In 2016, having reached a certain volume in sales and market experience, we have decided to open Beko subsidiary in Chicago, IL. I moved there with my family and I was appointed as Sales Director responsible for Distributors, OEM accounts and Buildier Projects in Beko US. With the new subsidiary, we have successfully launched Beko brand in the USA directly to retail. After almost 2 years in Chicago, I was promoted to Country Manager in Beko Ukraine office in 2018.
What was your first thought when you came to this country?
When I got the news regarding being appointed for Ukraine I expected it to be very different in terms of culture and business behavior from the countries I have been working in previously. Also, I know Beko history in Ukraine, it’s results and positions in the market and expect it to be a great challenge to place Beko where it deserves to be. Luckily, I have a great team who helped me to adjust; together we can achieve what we aim for and make this challenge a great experience.
Is Ukraine a difficult market for you? How would you like to assess the market challenges?
The Ukrainian market is strongly competitive as there are lots of different brands. Therefore, we have to face challenges to beat the competition and improve brand awareness. We have to reflect Beko’s global strengths to Ukraine better.
In addition, we are dependent on currency exchange rate and economic factors.
How the Ukrainian consumer’s purchasing preferences are formed. What kind of criteria are they examining when buying white goods? How do they look at Turkish-made white goods?
In Ukraine I have not heard any negative reviews on white goods produced in Turkey. Both countries have long-lasting and close relationships. Customers pay great attention to high quality as well as competitive pricing. Goods must be good value for money, energy saving and multifunctional/durable.
Our target for Ukraine is to position the consumer at the heart of our brand and provide them the best service. As in our global strategy, we do want to become top 3 in the markets where we operate. We are increasing Beko market share accordingly to achieve our goal in the near future.
How do you assess the situation of the Ukrainian white goods market? Are new brands entering the market? What kind of growth do you foresee in the sector?
According to GFK data, there is a 20% growth white goods market. Market is recovering but the growth will slow down. The Ukrainian market has great potential to extend. The elections can affect the market next year but we are still optimistic
Can the new Beko products and other brands belonging to Arçelik be included in the Ukrainian market in the future?
Currently Arçelik is investing in R&D to develop and promote new technologies and implement them in Ukraine and worldwide.
In the future our brand Grundig may enter the market in Ukraine to address a higher segment of consumers.
We know you have a special approach to Turkish coffee. What kind of work are you going to have in order to spread Turkish coffee culture in Ukraine? Does Turkish coffee fit the taste of the Ukrainians? (you can describe your products in this area, the events you planned
Turkish coffee is the great culture, this is not just selling to coffee machines Ukrainian customers. I believe it must be tasted in the correct way to to enjoy the coffeee. This year we are also bringing a Pro Coffee Maker to the market with great innovations; using induction technology and serving 9 cups at a time.We will try to spread the coffee culture on the market and among restaurants with this product. We are going to launch some activations to make more people try it.
Ukrainians are known as a people who keep pace with technology very quickly. It is also reflected in the statistics that the internet is rapidly spreading in trade. What are your predictions? Could you tell us about your sales strategy over the internet?
As we see globally, internet sales are increasing in Ukraine too. We can say it still is behind some EU countries but still a significant portion of sales are done thru some internet channels. For the moment in Ukraine our online strategies are especially focused on marketing. We are supporting the online retailers thru our contents in which we can reflect and explain Beko’s technologies to end users.
As one of Turkey’s most trusted brand, we are operating in the Ukrainian market. How would you like to evaluate the country’s investment climate as a foreign investor? What do you think should be done to be better?
Unluckily, the Ukrainian market suffers from negative perception of high level of burrocracy. However, we really don’t practise that in our daily lives. Also, there is a huge potential to come and invest. The economy of Ukraine is pushing off from the bottom and starting to grow. Businessmen need to understand the specifics of the country and take into account that it is still an emerging market, which nevertheless has a number of advantages. Business likes political and macro-economic stability in the state, and I think Ukraine is on its way to success.