On the night of 15 July, as the attempted coup d’état against Turkey’s state institutions unravelled, the country’s mobile networks were alive with activity.
The plotters plotted on social media, and the government sent video calls and SMS missives to update and exhort the people.
All the while, Turkish citizens, adept at getting around censorship rules, accessed live video streams from the streets of Istanbul on their smartphones.
“Communications, and especially mobile communications, were very important during the coup attempt,” says İlter Terzioğlu, the company’s Chief Strategy Officer.
“Our services – before, during and after – held up. There wasn’t any interruption. There weren’t any changes in customer behaviour – except on the upside, where people were making more use of them.”
Turkcell is not about to get into a political discourse; it wants to talk business.
With a median age of 30, Turkey has the youngest population of anywhere in Europe.
“More than half the population has grown up in this world – of the internet and social media. They want to use these technologies and services around the clock,” says Terzioğlu.
Such behaviour has helped Turkcell to record two decent quarters on the spin to post its highest sales growth for three years, finishing the period 8.6 percent up at TRY6.6 billion (€1.96 billion).
Revenue guidance was steady at 8-10 percent, while EBITDA jumped in line.
Young Turks thirst for its heady brew of “data, services and solutions”, says Terzioğlu. “Those three things are the growth engine,” he says.
Indeed, data and services contributed 46 percent of total revenues at last count, and grew by 39 percent in the second quarter.
Despite its Turkish stronghold, which contributes over 90 percent of group revenue, Turkcell also works in eight other markets, and has fast-expanding horizons.
Turkcell’s Ukrainian operation, working under the life:) brand, posted a seven percent jump in revenue in local currency during the second quarter.
Terzioğlu expects the same upside at its life:) subsidiary in Belarus, buoyed again by latent demand and timely supply of smart services.
“We will have a big impact towards the end of this year,” he predicts.
Its strategy is to increase its international footprint through selective mergers and acquisitions, as well as “globally relevant” products and services.
“Our vision is to take 40 percent of our total revenue from international markets. At present, that figure is almost 10 percent, so our strategy goes on,” says Terzioğlu.
Its 2015 deal for Astelit in the Ukraine – which saw it purchase SCM Holding’s 45 percent stake, take total ownership, and rebrand it in line with its wider group nomenclature – was the first step on its new international roads.
Turkcell has also submitted a binding offer for Telia’s 59 percent share of the pair’s FINTUR joint venture in the CIS region, covering Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova.
Negotiations are ongoing, and rather overshadowed by allegations of corruption around Telia’s business operations in Uzbekistan.
But Turkcell is not about to stop there. Terzioğlu says it is actively evaluating new market opportunities according to three essential criteria, established with its consolidation in the Ukraine: their cultural and geographic fit, their balance of fixed and mobile access, and their straight profitability.
“If it doesn’t match or lift our group EBITDA level, then we’re not interested,” he says.
This is an extract from a feature interview in the Q3 issue of European Communications’ magazine. Click here to subscribe.