Innovation Fuels Growth At Yildiz Holding

Innovation Fuels Growth At Yildiz Holding

A total of 46,000 employees, with 15,000 located overseas, production facilities spread out across four continents, and nearly 4 billion active consumers… With consecutive acquisitions of global brands in recent years, Yıldız Holding is now a global giant, "an empire on which the sun never sets," so to speak.  

The new Chief Marketing Officer at Yıldız Holding Turkey, Lale Saral Develioğlu, believes that growth will pick up even more speed in the coming term with the unity created among DeMet's, United Biscuits and Godiva.
Develioğlu stated that innovative products accounted for 10 percent of the Holding's revenues last year and pointed to innovation as the main driving force of growth. 
Develioğlu began her professional career at Unilever, the FMCG giant, 22 years ago, and she made a great impression with her accomplishments at Turkcell. "It was just like a school in terms of marketing, and I learned a lot there," she said about Unilever, where she worked for 12 years.
Then, she moved into a completely different industry and started working for Turkcell. She set out to build her own consultancy company after accomplishing much during her 11 years there. However, following a surprise offer from Yıldız Holding Chairman Murat Ülker, she went back to the FMCG industry and began serving as Chief Marketing Officer at Yıldız Holding.

We sat down with Lale Saral Develioğlu to talk about her new position, as well as the strategies Yıldız Holding will implement in Turkey and across the globe.  Develioğlu appears quite excited about the days ahead! 

What made you give up your consultancy company and move to Yıldız Holding?
I took part in the "Women on the Board of Directors" project in 2012 and 2013, and Murat Ülker was my mentor during that time.  Upon completion of the program, Murat Ülker asked me to be an independent board member at Kerevitaş. I agreed as Turkcell, where I worked at the time, allowed me to do so. 
I had the chance to work one-on-one with Murat Ülker and the senior management of Yıldız Holding in those years. In the same period, overseas acquisitions picked up speed, and United Biscuits was purchased. Naturally, I followed the process with great pride and appreciation, just as any Turkish citizen did.
When I left Turkcell and set up my own consultancy company, I wanted to work with Yıldız Holding brands. I had a conversation with Murat Ülker, and he asked me to work at Yıldız Holding with the idea of promoting Ülker brands abroad. To be honest, the excitement at Ülker was more appealing to me. So, I said yes to the offer fairly quickly.

It seems as if Murat Ülker laid the groundwork for such an offer when he was mentoring you. 
Obviously, it was important that we had known each other from that time, and that we had similar values and vision. It was inspiring to think that I would make a contribution to Yıldız Holding's current and future accomplishments as it moves forward. 
You had been away from the FMCG industry for 11 years while you worked at Turkcell. Was this something that raised any question marks in your mind when returning back to the industry? 
Essentially, the telecommunications and FMCG industries are not that far apart from each other, as you need to remain pretty close to the consumer in both. On the other hand, telecommunications is a lot more dynamic than FMCG, because the customer is using all of your products and you have a command of all their information.  If you are able to examine the information properly, then you can be immensely successful in marketing as well. 
I enjoy working in companies that appeal to large masses as this gives me an opportunity to understand society first hand. In addition, both industries put technology and innovation at the forefront.  Turkcell had a very young and expansive marketing team, and Ülker is no different. 
It is very exciting to be working with young colleagues and to share my experiences with them. The Generation Y makes up 65 percent of Yıldız Holding employees, and working with them requires a totally different approach. At times, we both need to make an effort to understand each other.
All good marketing people are said to have a background in FMCG. What is the reason for that? 
I don't know if a generalization can be made; however, Unilever was great in that sense. It selects its employees while they are still undergraduates and gives them the opportunity to study abroad.
In fact, all global companies have their own distinctive style. Unilever aspires to raise you as an all-around marketing person by giving you the chance to develop yourself in this field. Of course, when the time comes, you need to graduate and stand on your own two feet, which was also an exciting process for me. 

Yıldız  Holding has acquired many global giants in recent years. What is the vision behind this? 
Following the new acquisitions, Yıldız Holding has been transformed into a global company reaching 4 billion consumers and with a 46,000-strong workforce, of which 15,000 are located overseas, and with production across four continents. 
The last acquisition has now made us the world's third-largest biscuit maker. We are a heavyweight in chocolate as well. This requires a focus on its areas of expertise as well as use of the companies' global synergy. Today, Yıldız Holding is a multi-cultured company with employees from 73 countries.
How will United Biscuits contribute to this vision? 
Integration with United Biscuits is bound to create an immense alliance in the coming days. As United Biscuits is the market leader in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, and it dominates the European market. It is one of the major players in the Northern Europe and India markets as well.  
Meanwhile, Yıldız Holding is the market leader in Turkey, as well as a significant force in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Far Eastern markets such as China and Japan. When you place all these on a world map, you get a complete picture. Now, the most critical agenda ahead is to take this global know-how and R&D strength, and to expand them to all of the markets.
Will Yıldız Holding be focusing its attention on the brands under United  Biscuits or Ülker in the global markets?
Each market has its own dynamics and needs. Competitive conditions are also a decisive factor. When you look at it from this point of view, the market completely determines what brand should be where. Product portfolio is another major aspect. 
For instance, we will be putting an Ülker product in the market in North America under the Godiva brand. All brands associated with the Holding will be able to use the production and innovation power of all Yıldız Holding companies. This requires considerable coordination. 
"Everyone knows the trends in marketing now. The key is to be able to keep up with those trends. Digitalization and mobility are vital. Big data is another critical matter. In the past, creating an appropriate strategy was crucial. But, everyone knows what to do today.
The more important aspect is how they are implemented. Because, whatever you do, unless you digitize it and integrate it into your entire system, you will fail to reach your target audience. If you are not able to manage big data, you won't exist tomorrow. Success depends on achieving this. However, this in return requires internalization of certain realities."

What will your main responsibility be in this structure? 
I strive to make a contribution to the strengthening and globalization of both Ülker and its sub-category brands. On the other hand, we are assessing all of our brands to decide which ones should remain local and which ones should go global. We are also looking into products in our global portfolio that would strengthen us if we brought them here. This process may bring with it simplification or enhancement of certain product categories.
"We offer our customers 'A happy moment' for a mere 0.5 or 1 Turkish lira. We will strive to embrace 'Happiness' more in the coming period"
Ülker brands have been working under the "A happy moment" positioning for quite some time. Will you be maintaining this positioning in the coming period?
The "A happy moment" concept quite plainly explains the value our products add to our customers' lives. We truly are a brand that provides a happy moment to our customers for a mere 0.5 or 1 Turkish lira.  We will endeavor to embrace this motto even more in the coming days. 
Over 300  brands have been gathered together under Yıldız Holding with the latest acquisitions. What system will you be using to integrate the brand identity, personality and business processes of all these brands? 
Yıldız Holding has taken significant steps to standardize its system and has clearly defined its innovation process in recent years.  Even though our brands produce different products, they follow the same path during the entire production, advertising, marketing and innovation process. 
You have taken on the role of Godiva CEO in Turkey, the Middle East and Northern Europe as of this month.  What are your plans regarding the Godiva brand?
Under the Godiva brand, we provide retail services with our products as well as with our cafes.  In this sense, Godiva is a very strong retail brand. Our goal is to further bolster our brand across this region. 
Are you positioning Godiva as a chocolate or retail brand? 
Godiva is a brand that is growing with different strategies in different regions. Its growing more through its chocolate stores in the U.S.; meanwhile, its moving forward more with its cafe concept in Turkey, the Middle East and Northern Europe. We are experimenting with reaching consumers through different channels because Godiva is a very strong brand with a global ranking. 
Innovation is one of the most important dynamics. What is Yıldız Holding doing in that sense?
Last year, the brands under the Yıldız Holding umbrella earned 10 percent, or 1 billion Turkish lira, of revenues from innovative products. In this sense, innovative products constitute the main driving force of growth. Beyond new products, new formats are in demand. This is because as consumers, we do not give up on products we like—we just ask for them in other areas and forms.
The products consumers demand vary depending on local taste. When innovating, companies pay attention to preferences in their production. It is crucial to understand local tastes and produce accordingly, especially in regards to ready-to-eat food brands such as SuperFresh.

Interview: Ferruh Altun
Marketing Türkiye July 1, 2015

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5 Apr

The best projects of Yıldız Holding compete for “Stars of the Year Awards”

28 Mar