Sunday’s Zaman sat down with Turkish computer manufacturing firm Casper’s CEO Charlotte A. Lamprecht to discuss the latest developments in software markets. One of the most popular issues on the agenda of the Turkish software industry is the government-backed FATİH project, which represents the largest single allocation of resources to education in the history of modern Turkey.
As a result of the project, textbooks will be eliminated because students will access course materials using their tablet PCs. Following government remarks seeking domestic production of tablet PCs to distribute to some 15 million students, major tablet PC producers as well as leading software corporations took interest in taking part in the project. Casper is one of them. Such global giants as Google and Microsoft are also reportedly interested in FATİH, while many other countries have placed the project on their watch list.
Casper, Yıldız Holding’s Exper and Turkey’s largest private telecommunications technology group Netaş have recently signed an accord to combine powers to provide support for FATİH. The three did not hide intentions that they would like to branch out into the emerging markets of the Middle East, the Turkic republics, North Africa and Eastern Europe. The organizations involved in the joint venture hope to produce the highest local share of FATİH tablet PCs.
The venture is expected to produce 5 million units of tablet PCs per year after all studies are finalized. The managers from the three firms individually expressed faith in the fact that this joint project would strengthen the Turkish software industry’s hand in global markets while also opening the doors of new markets. Lamprecht agrees the anticipated new infrastructure investments for FATİH will pave the way for a partnership in the global arena as well.
“Turkish software firms joining power to establish partnerships in new markets is something that we should concentrate on once the local markets reach their maturity,” Lamprecht tells Sunday’s Zaman. Recalling that the government requires producers to use as much local sources as possible in FATİH, she says this will add more to what the Turkish software industry is capable of. As she cites Africa, Central Asia and Middle East as potential markets for Turkish software firms to get their foothold in, Lamprecht says the companies “will come to the logical conclusion of joining powers abroad and start implementation once FATİH comes to life successfully.” The government has drawn a wide spectrum for what will be involved in the FATİH project, and the three companies are currently working to build separate strategies. The Casper CEO says development teams from the three firms meet frequently to discuss new solution options. “This gives us an opportunity to ally as locals, bringing the most brilliant minds together to work on a single project,” she says. This is not the first time Casper has been engaged in a partnership with a rival. Two years ago they cooperated with Intel on a smaller scale project where firms designed computers together with producers from a number of countries including Brazil, Germany and Indonesia.
Casper already sells products to the Middle East and Central Asia. The company has recently entered the Iraqi market, a relatively new field for them. As regards to operations in this country, Lamprecht said they found out it was harder to reach Iraqi consumers than elsewhere and decided to partner with local dealers in each small town. “We recently moved more to the north of Iraq where sales are much higher thanks to an ongoing economic integration between this region and Turkish markets.” Lamprecht says they signed a contract with a local dealer in Russia and started shipping products into this country as well. Casper is still reluctant to seek adventures in some other new markets, the company CEO explains, noting their priority is to grow first in Turkey.
Bid to reach out to SMEs paying off
One of the exciting facts for Casper in Turkish markets is the existence of huge growth potential. Lamprecht gives much of this credit to millions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that still have not switched to computer use in their businesses. One of the company’s major goals is to reach out to this group of potential buyers. “Although the pace of SMEs going digital is not at the desired level, we have experienced notable recovery in this field,” Lamprecht explains. She says revenue from PC sales to SMEs more than doubled from last year. “Business purchases of technology products were stable and did not decline as dramatically as consumer purchases in the first half. This will drive second-half growth.”
Casper opened its new manufacturing facility with an annual production capacity of 1 million units in 2007 in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district. The company is eager to reach full production capacity in the country, but unprecedented global shock waves have hindered the process, Lamprecht says. “Our 1 million unit sales goal in 2013 looks like it will have to be delayed for one to two years due to fallout in European and global markets. Problems in Europe, particularly, impacts demand for goods from Turkey, but we will eventually get where we intend to be,” she adds. Casper makes 95 percent of their sales inside Turkey, while the remaining 5 percent goes to the Middle East and Central Europe.
As regards to domestic markets, she says a new, distinct buyer group has emerged in Turkey over the past few years. “Separate campaigns offered by companies attracted people who could afford PCs and other software products with small payments. This helped sales go up for a certain period, but we experienced a decline in revenue from this group primarily because the campaigns stopped in the first half of this year. I think there will be new campaigns through the second half with companies defining the micro payment model that suits them best.”
“Technology changes that are coming will increase demand at home. Smart phone adoption in Turkey, for instance, is equal to that of a mature economy. But we cannot say the same for tablets. I think Casper will fill a huge gap by entering the tablet market in Turkey,” she says.
The company has two new models to release in markets before year-end.