In fact, Murat Ülker, the head of the Ülker Group, does not give many exclusive interviews to the media. He meets the demands of the press through the briefings he sometimes gives. It was for this reason that we insisted on having an exclusive interview.
Last month, while we were going to meet with him we had no intention of seeking an “exclusive interview”. Previously I had heard and written about the change in the Godiva board of directors from Murat Ülker. While the conversation was shifting towards subjects such as management, change, branding and globalization, it developed, with Mr. Ülker’s permission, into a really great “conversation”. I believe that the main points of the conversation we had with Murat Ülker will also interest you.
In fact, I don’t visit Godiva, I mean the head office, very often. We have meetings of the board of directors four times a year. We also have four executive committee meetings a year. But I was only able to go to a total of six last year. When there are so many companies, it is not possible to visit them all and participate in all of the meetings.
MANAGING A LARGE COMPANY
It does not matter that there are more than 60 companies and that the number of employees is nearly 25,000. We look not at the individual companies but at the branches of business. It does not matter how the business is broken down, how it is structured from a legal perspective. There are many companies even in Godiva. It has companies in China, Hong Kong, Britain, Belgium and Japan. I am the one who is legally responsible, the signatory. But I don’t get involved in the management of the companies in those countries. For example, I even sign things for the company in China. Some things are written in Chinese but I still sign. We look at these companies as legal structures. What is important for us is the branch of business.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GLOBAL BRAND?
There are no real global brands in Turkey. But maybe there will be some in the future. Being a global brand is not just about being recognized. It does not make any sense for somebody here to get up and start advertisements saying “We are a global brand”. What they are doing is just a waste of money.
In fact, there is no such brand in the world. We have such brands in our minds. Nestle for example… Nestle is in chocolate. It is known as a chocolate brand in Switzerland but it is not such a massive brand. But when you go to an African country it is known as a baby food brand. But is Nestle a global brand? I think that Nestle is a global brand. Its sales, the fact that it is manufactured everywhere make it so. It has a certain market share in all of those markets. That is what we are trying to achieve.
WHICH ARE THE CANDIDATE BRANDS?
I mean, we are trying to be global in some categories, with some of our brands on selected markets. Our aim is first to secure a significant market share. If we can do this then we shall become a regional brand. Then we are aiming to become a global brand.
The most suitable category for a global brand is biscuits. For example, it could be Biskrem, because it is very well known. And it is manufactured in many places around the world. There is also Çokokrem, for example. It is also a well known brand and widespread. In some places, Ülker is very well known.
Some companies write, “global brand” under their products. Now, I am Ülker, and am relatively well known. But I still write “biscuit” underneath. On Ülker İçim I write “milk”.