“On the internet, you have to do the best all the time. Therefore, I frankly can say that we listened to the internet users better and developed better products than our competitors did.”
He is the son of the founder and owner of İpragaz. After working in the family company for a while, he decided to make investments in the internet sector. And leaving everything apart, he made an investment in a brand new field by leading the way. This venture of Emre Kurttepeli, the Chairman of Executive Board of Mynet, is not one of those ventures which can be explained in 3 lines at all. Mynet which was founded as “the first web site with the Turkish contents in Turkey” led the way in the countless fields such as search engine, free e-mail, entertainment, news, shopping, web site installation, finding employees, and carrier and became the largest portal of Turkey. Furthermore, it gravitated to SMEs and created new low cost, practical, and easy solutions in the fields such as web site, finding employees, etc.
But with the expression of Kurttepeli, transporting from industry into technology, making a new start, to constitute a new business system in an unknown field was very difficult. We can see that it more difficult when we think that he left the position of the manager in the “guaranteed” long-established and big family company and undertook huge risks without any support. Kurttepeli grew rapidly in the business life that he started 7 years ago with a team of 8 people as a SEM and created a brand in a new field.
We talked to Kurttepeli about the success story of Mynet, the position of technology in the future of SMEs and the methods of using technology with the lowest cost and severity.
Why did you gravitate to the internet which can be seen as new for investment in that period instead of continuing to work in the family company?
As an entrepreneur, I met internet in 1996. At that time, we founded a service provider with the English. But I sold it, as I could not share much time for it and started to work in our family company. We founded Mynet in March, 1999. The internet is like a road, if there is a destination at the end of this road, progressing on that road is meaningful. In those years, all of the contents on the internet were in English, it was not enough if 100.000 people knew English. I saw this gap and decided to make a venture on the internet leaving the industry sector. And we founded Mynet in order to meet the gap of Turkish contents.
Was that hard to make a rapid transition into such a different sector?
Yes, the internet is in the service sector, there are certain differences between industry and internet. We had a team of 8 people, when we founded Mynet. We started the work with an expansive advertisement campaign. On the day when we opened Mynet, the system broke down and our team worked for 3 days without sleeping in order to correct this. The system could not stand such a big density. I always remember that we transformed the last floor into a bedroom and put sea beds there… This can be ridiculous when we compare this situation with industry. You provide service 24 hours and you cannot say “stop” to the advertisement campaigns. Then we understood that there is a big demand for contents in Turkey.
After the foundation of Mynet, your competitors took action, too. What was your strategy on that phase? What was it that you did different and you got bigger?
The competition started between 1999-2001 not only in Turkey but also in all parts of the world. As the values of the internet companies were stated in billion dollars after only several months of their foundations, many people made thousands of investments in this sector. Turkey was one of those countries where there were so many ventures and many entrepreneurs gravitated to the field of internet portal. At this point we need to emphasize that portal is a very wide concept. Although the meaning of portal is “the media where many of the services on the internet are provided”, many companies in Turkey approached to this field very differently. These companies used large advertisement budgets in the period of 2-3 years. At this point, as Mynet we had a different structure in contrast to the trends both in Turkey and in the world. We gravitated to the internet users and internet services. What were these services? We created a media which is more appropriate for the spirit of the internet such as e-mail, search engine, web site foundation means, panels, chat zones and we prioritized the subjects that “enabled us to be with the internet users.” However, most of our competitors were destroyed as they founded their sites especially with the logic of going public in the future.
What were your criteria on the selection of service?
The internet has properties such as being very strong, rapid, and dynamic. But it does not mean that we will read pages of writings on the internet. Although we spend most of our day on the internet, we still read newspaper, journals, and books. Therefore, first of all we concentrated on the services that are specific to the internet of which the most successful one was e-mail. After that, the contents such as search engine, chat, and entertainment become more dominant. Furthermore, in contrast to our competitors, we gravitated to provide user oriented services by listening to them. We have the same approach today. This was our most important feature which enabled us to be the leader. In industry, you can construct a strong infrastructure, have a factory, and precede your competitors at least for 5-10 years. You can be the leader thanks to your distribution network, although there are better products on the market. But on the internet, those matters do not provide you with advantages. You lose if there is anybody who serves better. For example, you have a search engine but, if your competitor has a better one, the users will prefer this. For this reason, you have to do the best all the time. You have to trace your competitors, control them and the most important, to meet their requirements. For this reason, I expressly declare that we listened to the internet users and developed better products than our competitors did.
Mynet was a SEM on the years when it was founded. How did you succeed in getting bigger in 7 years?
It is very difficult to be a SEM and make progress especially in Turkey where the finance resources are limited. When we look at foreign countries, an entrepreneur who has a good idea can provide finance very easily. But in Turkey, you do everything under your own steam. As a SME, you want to realize something good, but you do not have the adequate revenue and human resources for that and you cannot work with the personnel you want, etc. I believe that everything starts with the person himself. The SMEs have to develop miscellaneous formulations for that. Look, the big companies have a vertical structure. One person has knowledge about something but does not know about the others. But when you look at a SME, both the owner and the administrators have to be very comprehensive people in order to survive. The accountancy manager can deal with purchase and human resources at the same time. And when necessary he may have to sweep the floors. Because of this, the SMEs have to work with correct people.
What is the biggest mistake of the SMEs at this point?
The most important feature that differentiates the successful from the unsuccessful which lacks in the SMEs in Turkey is as follow: They have courage but it sometimes happens imprudently. For this reason, I advise them to make a comprehensive research. They have to listen to the market very carefully. If you have a good product, then you cannot lose any time. No matter how bad your marketing methods are, you will have at least 50 customers. It will never be zero. For this reason, you have to listen to the market very carefully. They enter into a sector imprudently and at the end of the journey, they ask to themselves “Why did we enter this section, why did we release this product?” It is good to dream, if you really want, you will succeed in it no matter how difficult it is. For example Mynet, although it has smaller finance possibilities than those in foreign countries, it competes with them head to head. If we succeeded in such a difficult competition environment with such limited possibilities, it is not impossible for the other SMEs to be successful. If you operate a work correctly, then you will get benefit from it inevitably. Let your competitor be stronger than you 5.000 times. For this reason, I advise much courage and much working.
Where do you see the SMEs in the future of Turkey?
I think the development of Turkey will be predominantly with the SMEs as in many other countries. The Turkish companies need a structure which can move very fast, adapt and have a venture spirit. These are generally those features that exist within the scope of SMEs. For this reason, the SMEs have to become the most important driving force in 2-3 years in Turkey.
What do you think; do the Turkish SMEs have the adequate power to stand such a future?
When we look at the SMEs, we see that they do not have access to some resource before the big companies. But in contrast to this, the Turkish SMEs have many advantages such as speed, dynamism, and rapid movement. It is very interesting that the big companies generally make use of technology in order to come up with the speed of the SMEs.
What is the position of technology in the future of the SMEs?
The use of technology has a critical importance in the lives of the SMEs. But what was missing so far? Apart from the financial aspect; those are the facts that a perception of “inaccessibility and difficulty” reveals as this subject is not explained correctly, and a technical and theoretical approach is used. For this reason, we made this approach easier and started to present products whose costs are very low. I think that this is what should be in Turkey.
What are these products?
First of all, every SME has to use the internet. Today the mean called e-mail is connecting the world. Thanks to this, you can take orders on the internet, make a name for yourself, and join miscellaneous networks… It is very costly to attend at a fair abroad and make advertisements. But on the internet, you can attend at the virtual fairs. You can publish your brochures. These are only a few benefits of the internet. The SMEs have to make use of these examples at a rate 100%.
They are aware of it. But technology is a difficult work. Imagine that when we tussle with the remote control, one is telling about the websites etc. Consequently, we constructed such easy systems for the SMEs that they can prepare their own internet sites in minutes.
Of course, web site is not everything. You have give the means in order to realize this. The SMEs do not have thousands of dollars to spend for these devices. For this reason, we present all of the means that will be necessary under the name of “pro-service”. We take the domain name, construct the site, and prepare e-mail, advertisement and presentation packages. Their annual costs do not exceed 500-1000 dollars. We progress by developing these packages. For example, we will launch different advertisement products soon. The regional studies, works with the foreign countries, etc. the other big problems of the SMEs are costs, sales and profit.
They are experienced and careful about the costs but they weakness in the sales enhancing activities. For this reason, the internet is the most appropriate means for them. They solve this problem very easily by receiving the Pro-service services on Mynet for 300-400 Turkish Liras. Our system is a practical and accessible solution where the companies construct their own web sites, sell more products, and provide more comfortable communication. We have services such as carrier, finding personnel and giving advertisement along with others.
If I were a SME, I would make use of internet everyday
What method should the SMEs use in the technology investments?
The SMEs have to use internet carefully. Today technology is expensive and you have a limitless investment field about this matter. The right one is to make a logical investment and evaluate the alternatives correctly. For example, a SME has to make e-mail a part of his job. E-mail should be used not only in the company but also out of the company. The internet decreases the communication costs at a serious rate. Along with this, they have to enter the internal and external markets via internet absolutely. They have to think about the potential customers who use the internet for researching as well. Because these researches play an important role for the decision mechanism of this potential customer. The purchasers find the alternatives and make their minds. For this reason, they should see the web site as a serious and effective marketing means. The acquaintance of the SMEs with the internet started with the accountancy packages. This generally remained specific to the financial department and became a system which is not used internally so often. First of all, these systems have to be expanded in the company. And also behaving very carefully is of critical importance. There are also technologies which started with good will but were never used.
So, how will the processes develop?
My offer is the process of constituting the internet aspect, that is to say web sites and e-mails. The e-mail address is a must that should be on the card visits firstly. The next steps must be constructed on the sales increasing structures. For example, one of the projects that we perform is based on how to increase the sales with considerable costs. These can be representation packages or trade centers on the internet… You can meet the buyers and sellers on the internet. We founded Mynet Trade Center in order to make it a market means of the SMEs on the internet which brings together the sellers and buyers. The third one is, as I said before, to reach at the buyers on the internet… The SMEs make use of this opportunity absolutely. Because on the internet, everybody meets the buyers on an equal rate. In the past, the access power of the big companies to the buyers was much larger. The internet removed this barrier. In the past, it was very costly to make a market research. Five years ago, you would pay 50.000 dollars for such a research. However today you can make this research on the internet very easily. If I were a SME, I would make use of this opportunity everyday. You can move much faster with the information you can gain here.