Ahmet Burak Dağlıoğlu was appointed head of Invest in Turkey, the country’s national investment promotion agency (IPA) working under the presidency of the republic, in mid-February. Little did he know back then that he had a steep learning curve ahead. 

A few weeks into his mandate, he would find himself steering his organisation through the biggest crisis of recent times, triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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With trade and investment picking up again, he is now sharpening the focus of his organisation to attract investment in high-tech manufacturing and research and development (R&D).

Q: How has Invest in Turkey changed its approach due to the crisis?

A: Our priority was to retain existing investments and continue their operations so that these ongoing projects did not get delayed. We set up a dedicated task force dedicated to the Covid-19 agenda to communicate with the existing investor base in Turkey to ensure that business continues.

It was easy for us to adjust to the new working conditions because the structure of our office means we have already been accustomed to working remotely with our international network of 11 countries. We were able to hold more than 600 meetings to work with investors and provide solutions through our communications channel.

Q: Were these online meetings as effective as on-the-ground meetings?

A: For meetings with existing investors, it was okay because the communication was a continuation of existing business, but for new projects it is not the same.

When an international business figure visits Turkey, they can see the potential of the youth and the culture of entrepreneurship in Turkey, which is a solid value proposition to the investors.

Q: The Turkish government has announced plans to redevelop its manufacturing industries. How will Invest in Turkey be supporting this?

A: Our manufacturing industries have transformed from limited manufacturing to advanced manufacturing and have moved up the global value chain in recent decades. 

We would like to further move up the value chain towards high-tech manufacturing, especially in automotive, pharmaceutical, IoT, space, ICT and electronics, especially in the consumer electrics side.

To enhance Turkey’s position as a manufacturing hub, we have a role in enhancing manufacturing clusters across the country. Another important role for us is to support the manufacturing industry. There are many companies in Turkey doing heavy manufacturing, we believe that we have to attract more functions related to the pre- and post-manufacturing phases. In this regard, attracting research and development (R&D) projects and design functions is a priority for us. Currently we have 1200 R&D centres in Turkey, and 187 of them have been set up by international companies. When it comes to high-tech manufacturing, our team is analysing those parts of the high-tech value chains that are still missing in the country to identify potential opportunities for investors so that they can approach companies in a proactive way with a value proposition. 

Q: How important is venture capital in achieving this aim?

A: Venture capital investments are very important for the transformation of manufacturing industries. There are many promising start-ups which have very good technologies but need better financing.

We are organising roadshows to connect financial investors and venture capitalists with start-ups in the emerging cities of Turkey to introduce the concept of financial investors to small and medium-sized  enterprises (SMEs). We have continued this during Covid-19, including an online session for venture capitalists based in Dubai to which more than 200 start-ups joined.

Q: Are you expecting more of a V-shaped recovery or delayed U-shape recovery?

A: Once the uncertainty starts to fade away, and both the global economy and the Turkish economy go back to the normal growth pattern, we believe that Turkey will have a V-shaped recovery.

Turkey’s track record from previous crises, such as the 2008 global financial crisis, shows that the economy recovers faster than its peer economies after global shocks.

Q: As a leader of a national IPA, what have you learned personally during the Covid-19 crisis?

A: I was appointed to this role in mid- February and just after that, we had this Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic has reminded us that you should be prepared to work in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. I believe that in the new normal, the success of companies will depend on their ability to do business in these times, leading to more smart solutions and more agile organisations.

Ahmet Burak Dağlıoğlu is president at the Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey (Investment Office of Turkey).

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