Technology/Social Media in Turkey
With ever improving internet speeds and connection times across the board, Turkey is now more in touch with the rest of the world than ever before. While home internet access in Turkey remains among the lowest in Europe, a large percentage of the population now has the world wide web at its fingertips with the latest smartphone or tablet. The introduction of mobile 4.5G across the country at the end of March 2016 means that access to social media, news and shopping is now faster than ever while on the move. When you consider that the Apollo 11 space craft which landed on the moon in 1969 had less technology than today’s smartphones, it is evident that technology moves at an incredible pace and so do the business that rely on it, benefit from it and sell it. With technologies and internet access ever improving, Turkey is now beginning to see gaps in the gaming sector market and e-commerce with many believing that technology and online business is the future of Turkey’s economic success.
Turkey currently has a population of 79 million people and 70% are aged under 35, the demographic mostly associated with technology and social media all over the world. Considering this, in Turkey there is an exceptional amount of interaction on social media among those with smartphones and laptop access. Turkish mobile phone company ‘Turkcell’ now offers the fastest LTE speeds that are supported on commercial mobile gadgets, offering 10 times the speed of the country’s previous use of 3G, meaning that now more than ever, anything can be done immediately and access and communication with the rest of the world is just seconds away. As a result of this, social media has emerged as a key alternative news source for urban residents as well as a key communication tool for following national developments, despite the occasional restrictions and blocking of services.
Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have become providers of live, to the second reporting and information is shared by people on the ground as these events happen. It is also a growing platform for free journalism and new digital-born brands, providing a free space to express opinions and knowledge. Statistics show that 73% of social media users in Turkey use social media as a news source, second only to television at 80%. Users are hooked on social media for more than news though, with an increase in online businesses all over the country, trading worldwide and networking with those in this growing market. While Saudi Arabia has the highest ranking for social network usage in the world, Turkey doesn’t fall far behind in 3rd place. Facebook remains the favourite social media account in Turkey, with Twitter, Instagram and YouTube becoming ever more popular.
Turkey is currently fifth in the world for the number of Facebook users, currently recorded as 41 million, but leads the way with the highest page to user ratio across the world. Over half of the Turkish population have a Facebook account and 39 million people log into Facebook every day, making Turkey the 4th most active user country after Brazil, Egypt and the US. The most popular Facebook pages in Turkey are football teams, ‘Galatasaray’ and ‘Fenerbahçe’ and Turkish Airlines followed closely by President Erdoğan, who is also prominent on Twitter as the second most popular account in Turkey after actor and comedian Cem Yilmaz. The number of Twitter users cannot compare to Facebook with just 9.6 million users in Turkey, but this does consistently increase by 33% each year. Instagram is also popular, with locals seen taking pictures and uploading on a regular basis.
The Gaming Sector
One area of technology which has grown considerably in recent years is the gaming sector. Turkey currently has the third largest number of gaming participants in relation to its overall population with 7 million male gamers between the ages of 18 and 24. As an industry currently worth $140 billion worldwide, Turkey has seen the potential and opportunity in becoming a major player in the gaming industry as producers rather than consumers; the mobile gaming sector in particular is ready to excel. The country’s geographical positioning is also ideal for the intentions of bridging Europe’s gaming sector with the Middle East and with such a strong demographic of educated young adults who understand both cultures, Turkey could easily tap into what is already a booming industry.
Software programming and computing is an international language, a global and borderless export that doesn’t rely on finite or natural resources, it just needs the will and effort to learn, a philosophy wholeheartedly backed by Bahçeşehir University on the European side of Istanbul. In 2014, Assistant Professor Güven Çatak founded the university’s Gamelab, “Mater BUG”, a game design graduate program, the first of its kind in Turkey, established to foster a community of developers and artists and encourage a larger game development community across the country. The long term goal of which, is to nurture these student software and gaming developers in order to create a gaming production industry for the future Turkey.
Turkey may still be behind gaming giants such as South Korea and the US where industry events fill stadiums, but some true success stories have already been seen. Gram Games is only four years old and recognises that game development is a tough industry, more so in Turkey where the mobile gaming environment is still very young and experimental, yet their aim is to have a “Gram Game” installed on every mobile device in the world and their prize winning game “1010” recently reached 65 million downloads. Taleworlds Entertainment, founded in Ankara in 2005 brought in $3 million from the launch of their first game “Mount & Blade” in 2008 and are about to release their sixth, “Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord”.
Turkish game developer Crytek was founded in 1999 by three Turkish brothers, Cevat, Avni and Faruk Yerli. This three man startup now has 717 employees worldwide with headquarters in Frankfurt and studios in Istanbul, Budapest, Kiev, Seoul, Shanghai and Sofia. Their game engine (a software framework designed for the creation and development of video games) is known worldwide as being one of the most visually amazing gaming engines and the company’s game “Crysis”, published by Electronic Arts, is now ingrained in gaming culture globally. Global leaders of the gaming industry have become incredibly successful when backed by grants and tax exemptions. Turkey currently sports a lack of regulations, procedures and government funding, making it difficult for the sector to truly take flight, however with the establishment of industry associations such as Oyunder, Toged, ATOM and of course Bahçeşehir University’s BUG, game production in Turkey has a huge amount of support for the future.
Online trading has become one of the biggest revelations in business since money was able to change hands over an internet connection. With a median age of just 30 in Turkey, younger than anywhere else in Europe, online shopping and internet based businesses are hugely successful. The country’s population is predicted to reach 93 millions by 2050 and with the younger demographic being tech savvy and early adopters of technology, the country boasts a wealth of home-grown apps with mobile penetration currently at nearly 94%. This is only set to grow more as the younger generation does.
In 2015, Turkey earned 24.7 billion lira from e-commerce, with a growth of 31% in that year. Travel websites and businesses account for a large amount of that revenue at 36%, followed by online retailers at 34%. The remaining income is split among marketplaces and niche players. However, steady growth and the fact that e-commerce remains an unsaturated market in Turkey means that there is still room for further development and progression in this sector, attracting a wealth of overseas players and investors.
Tiger Global and Silicon Valley venture capital firm ‘Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ alongside the ‘European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’ are the latest big overseas players in Turkish e-commerce having invested in popular online fashion retailer ‘Trendyol’. The fashion entrepreneurs had sales of $188 million in 2015, representing just 2% of Turkey’s fragmented e-commerce market and sales are expected to double in 2016 and grow a further 50% in 2017. So popular is this online shopping retailer, their website averages 35 million visitors a month, 20 times more than the busiest shopping mall in Turkey.
Fashion isn’t the only online market in Turkey which is attracting multi-million dollar deals from overseas investors. Private equity firm ‘Abraaj’ took a minority stake last year in online retailer hepsiburada.com, a website dedicated in selling technology gadgets such as televisions, mobile phones and computers. Hepsiburada is now considered to be one of Turkey’s best known e-commerce sites. E-commerce giant ‘Ebay’ has also got in on the Turkish playing field by investing in online retailer ‘Gettigidiyor’ which literally translates as ‘Going, Going, Gone’. Gettigidyor is an online shopping retailer offering a wide variety of products, similar to the main Ebay website and has now become an official subsidiary of Ebay. Online sales tycoon ‘Amazon’ are following in Ebay’s footsteps with a significant investment in ciceksepeti.com, a flower delivery website based business.
With a younger and more technologically minded population growing each year, a global market for anything web based and ever improving online connections, Turkey has a bright future in technology. The younger generation worldwide are fast becoming used to having information, news, shopping and entertainment at their fingertips and instant gratification is becoming the norm. It is an area of business that is constantly growing, evolving and improving and with that growth comes gaps in the market for the young, tech savvy people of Turkey, alongside the huge potential to bridge the gap between Europe, the US and the Middle East. With social media having seamlessly integrated itself into the every day lives of billions of people across the world and cashing in on easy and fast online marketing, there has also never been a more effective way to promote people and businesses to the correct market. Wherever you go in Turkey you can see locals attached to their handheld gadgets, sharing the wonders of their country and their businesses on the likes of Facebook and Instagram, creating a world that is so much smaller these days than we ever imagined. So many success stories are already paving the way and setting a fantastic example for new and innovative startups, the future really does look bright for Turkey.