First, please briefly tell us Bilkom? What is the number of brands it has and the categories it operates in? How its distribution network works and where it stands in the sector?
On account of over 35 years of experience and expert staff, Bilkom is one of the leading Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) distributors in Turkey. The company, directly and indirectly, distributes products of leading global brands to more than 4,000 vendor hubs throughout Turkey.
Today, our customer portfolio includes prominent and leading global brands such as Apple, Huawei, TCL, DJI, Fitbit (Google), Alcatel, Blackberry, Celly, and Hypergear that shape the digital and mobile transformation in the world. We provide such brands with 360-degree brand management, business development, channel program development, and consumer experience management, as well as customer-focused services.
At Bilkom, we strive to improve the quality of life through technology and intend to ensure the current technology to be accessible to everyone. We believe that the most important indicator of the company’s number 1 distributor position in the sector is the fact that 1 out of every 4 smartphones, 1 out of 5 tablets in the tablet category, and 1 out of every 3 smartwatches in the wearable technology category purchased in electronic retail stores across Turkey are distributed by Bilkom as of the year-end 2020.
What goals did you have when you entered 2020, how did the pandemic affect your goals? How was your performance as you wrapped up the year?
Bilkom’s purpose is to always introduce the best brands and the latest technologies to Turkey. Accordingly, in the first few months of 2020, we launched to the market Fitbit’s wearable thermometer technology products, which are eagerly awaited by healthy-lifestyle enthusiasts in Turkey. Thanks to the intense demand of the consumers and successful sales, we have received the benefits of this investment, which was made with great foresight in the pre-pandemic period. In the last quarter of the year, we materialized important cooperation with the global giant TCL Inc. in order to have a share in the Android TV market. We have displayed a growth performance far above the sector for the last 5 years. We continued this stable course in 2020 despite the pandemic. Our equity grew by more than 30 percent on TRY, and up to 10 percent on the US dollar basis.
In which categories did you especially grow in 2020? Which novel applications have you implemented to manage your business practices and customer relations to go through the pandemic with the minimum impact?
After the third month in 2020, it was a difficult year as the pandemic began to suck all the air out of the room. Our business had mainly focused on retail stores when the pandemic entered. However, as consumers turned to online shopping with the disease, we had to adapt to this tendency. During this dire period, we focused on online channels like everyone else, and successfully tripled our sales through online channels.
We have launched our online promoter setup in order to continue our support to consumers and for purposes of efficiency in this period after closures and downsizing of personnel at the retail end. With this set up, where the QR code that we place next to our products displayed in retail stores leads the customers to sales representatives to attain first-hand information about the product, price, and obtain guidance, we have made significant progress in maintaining distancing and converting offline human contact to online communication.
On the other hand, Bilkom was not a stranger to remote work organizations. In line with our vision of ‘being a role model company in digital transformation’, thanks to our ‘virtual workplace’ project, which we started in 2016 as a part of our digital transformation journey, all of our units were prepared to continue their business processes in the virtual environment. With the onset of the pandemic in our country, we immediately switched to the remote working model and we still continue with the 100% home working model. Today, we carry out our daily operations through our mobile applications, which allow us to work together and share anytime, anywhere. Thus, we were able to continue our business easily without interrupting any of our processes during the epidemic period.
Has there been any change in your portfolio lately? What kind of changes have you experienced?
We especially wanted to be present in the ‘smart television’ category, as people spent more time in their homes in the living arrangement defined as the new normal, and as television has become the focal point of this new arrangement. From this perspective, breaking new ground, we began to operate as a manufacturer-distributor in the television category. On this journey, we are with TCL, the global giant whose brands we have been offering to the market in the mobile and wearable accessories categories for the last three years. Our partnership with TCL will enrich people’s lives and redefine home entertainment with the latest TCL TV models.
Where would you like to take Bilkom in the next few years? What kind of roadmap will you have for this?
At Bilkom, we strive to add value to all our stakeholders, including our shareholders, customers, employees, sales channels, and consumers. Under this roof we call ‘ Bilkom Plus’ services we offer customer-oriented services to our customers, the world-leading brands, within the framework of an actual ‘win-win’ relationship, going beyond a mere distributor for them. While we prepare the market for brands that do not have an organization in Turkey and have not been represented so far in our country, we also support them to grow their business by providing 360-degree brand management services as an open and experienced business partner for the sales channels; we set sight on sustainable and long-term cooperation. And we are totally committed to becoming the ‘best employer’ for our employees.
We wish to continue Bilkom’s sustainable growth with our flexible and agile company structure and our expert team of professionals. Initiatives such as regional growth, operator distributorship, domestic production, online channels, and service sales are among Bilkom’s important innovation focus and are on the road map of the upcoming period.
Fikret Ballıkaya – Capital Interview