Turkey’s Iron Lady: EBRD supports woman-led metal company EKO Endüstri

By Başak  Demirdağ

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Işıl Yöndem Pelteci, 30, runs EKO Endüstri, a metal forming operation that occupies an area of over 13,000 m2, employs more than 160 people and boasts Decathlon and IKEA among its clients.

türk çeviri

Company doubles production with expert advice

Işıl Yöndem Pelteci’s family has been running a metal forming company in Izmir, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, since 1999. It would be fair to say that Işıl was born to become a metallurgical engineer. She earned her degree from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, one of the top universities in Turkey, and shortly afterwards went back to Izmir to join the family business.

Now just 30 years old, Işıl is in charge of EKO Endüstri, a metal forming operation that occupies an area of over 13,000 m2, employs more than 160 people and boasts Decathlon and IKEA among its clients.

Just as at university, where she was one of the few female students in her class, Işıl remains a rarity in the Turkish metallurgical industry. She says that negotiating with clients – often senior male executives – is tough, but nothing that cannot be mastered through hard work, thorough knowledge of the business and effective communication.

Işıl particularly likes working with international customers. In 2004, her company enlarged its product portfolio to sports equipment. To say they were successful would be an understatement. Decathlon, one of the world's largest retailers of sporting goods, made EKO Endüstri its sole Turkish producer of sports equipment in 2005. IKEA came on board in 2011. 

“Increasing demands from our clients required a perfectly planned and highly organised production process,” Işıl recalls. “We had to track all processes properly, increase production, speed up delivery and become more efficient across all processes. In other words, we needed to do more with less.”

This is where the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) came into the picture. The Bank’s Finance and Advice for Women in Business programme – funded together with the European Union and Turkey – is promoting women’s entrepreneurship in the country.

Under the programme, the EBRD has made available €300 million to finance female-run businesses through Turkish banks, combining funds with advisory support, training, mentoring and networking opportunities to give women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Turkey the tools they need to grow.

The European Union, the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Turkish Employment Agency İŞKUR are supporting the programme with €38 million for credit enhancement, technical assistance for partner banks and advice to small businesses.

The EBRD introduced EKO Endüstri to MBT Danismanlik Ltd. Sti., a local consultancy firm specialising in production management with extensive experience of working with SMEs.

The consultants helped Işıl’s company to introduce so-called lean production, which involves continuous efforts to eliminate or reduce any activities that consume resources without adding value.

“The EBRD brought us together with a consultant with international expertise and experience of working with companies such as Mercedes Benz,” says Işıl. “The advice was very helpful. We have become much more efficient and with the help of the consultant have managed to convince our board to implement important changes.”

Since the introduction of lean manufacturing at EKO Endüstri, production has doubled and labour productivity has increased significantly. These improvements have strengthened the company’s position and it is currently a key account supplier of Decathlon. The two companies are now working to develop a strategic business plan for the next 5 five years.

EKO Endüstri is among the 130 women-led Turkish companies that have received advice under the Finance and Advice for Women in Business programme since it was launched in 2014. 71 per cent have reported an average increase in turnover of 40 per cent.

Over 6,500 women entrepreneurs and managers in Turkey have benefited from financing, expert advice, training, mentoring and networking opportunities. More than 5,000 women-led SMEs have received loans totalling around 215 million Turkish lira from Finansbank and TEB, two local banks. 70 per cent of financing went to enterprises outside the large metropolitan areas of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Vakıfbank and İşbank will start on-lending under the programme shortly.

Jean-Patrick Marquet, EBRD Director, Turkey, paid tribute to the strength and perseverance of Turkish businesswomen: “The success of the programme is the success of the female entrepreneurs we are supporting. The EBRD will continue working in this area to increase women’s entrepreneurship in Turkey and grow women-led SMEs to the benefit of the Turkish economy and society. On International Women’s Day it is more than appropriate to honour the enormous contribution women make to the economy and it our mission to create new opportunities for them to do even more.”

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