Cengiz Öztelcan, Türk Telekom International: Streamlined for Success

28 October 2013 |

In his first in-depth interview since becoming acting CEO of Türk Telekom International in May, Cengiz Öztelcan talks exclusively to Capacity about the company's high-growth strategy since its rebranding earlier this year.

In May this year, Türk Telekom Group made the bold move of rebranding its international data and wholesale voice business, PanTel, as Türk Telekom International.

As one of the leading operators in the central and eastern Europe region, the PanTel brand already had considerable strength when the group purchased the business in 2010. However, the business has continued to grow under Türk Telekom's ownership, through a number of partnerships and network expansions. For this reason, acting CEO Cengiz Öztelcan believes it was time to present the message of a singular, streamlined offering to the wholesale telecoms industry.

"That was one of the things that I personally took over," Öztelcan says. "Making sure that the business is much more integrated and that there are more synergies, not only within the parent company and us, but also externally." 

Öztelcan believes that having the backing of its Türk Telekom parent company brings enormous value to TTI. 

Türk Telekom Group has a huge reputation and awareness, not only in Europe and the Middle East, but also globally, and the CEO believes the move has already been positively received by its customers. The rebranding supports TTI's high-growth strategy, which is mainly targeting expansions into Asia and the Middle East, where the Türk Telekom brand already has a lot of recognition.

"I'm going to be pressing very heavily on this footprint expansion," Öztelcan says. "We're really going to be looking to expand into the Middle East and Asia, where new growth and demand is coming from." TTI has plans to launch a Hong Kong office and has recently hired an employee to be based in the country.

In the Middle East, TTI has a number of employees actively selling its products and Öztelcan says the company is looking to invest heavily in infrastructure and staff in the region.

Further plans include expanding its presence in cable consortiums, as well as investigating terrestrial solutions in the northern hemisphere to provide a different route into Asia. "We have a cable consortium that takes us to Asia. We're looking into joining others that will take us out to the Far East, and we're in constant discussions for those," Öztelcan says.

The Digital Silk Road
Network expansion is seen as a key area for TTI, which has been boosted by the support of the United Nations (UN) for its TASIM project.

The TASIM project, which stands for Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway, is designed to provide connectivity from China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey into Europe.

TTI will be responsible for the Turkish and European leg of the connection and the company is working alongside the Azerbaijani government for its implementation.

"We collaborate very closely with the Azerbaijani government, both at the UN and at the consortium member levels," Öztelcan comments. However, he admits that the project, internally dubbed "The Digital Silk Road", still faces many challenges.

"It's not going to be an easy region in which to establish this, considering the multiple countries, multiple stakeholders and different interests, but if it becomes a reality it's going to be a very solid connection from China and the Far East into Europe," Öztelcan says.

As of yet there is no set completion date, but Öztelcan stresses his commitment to the project and says that both TTI and the Azerbaijani government are working tirelessly to ensure the project goes ahead.

International expertise 
Öztelcan takes pride from the company's growing international presence. With involvement in 14 countries worldwide and offices in seven of these, he says that one of the biggest satisfactions in his jobs is bringing everybody into one meeting. "It brings together a huge mixture of different nationalities – and to all be working towards one goal," he says. 

Öztelcan has been meticulous in ensuring his staff members are onboard with the rebranding project. "Having our brand represented by such an exclusive group of people in Europe and the rest of the world is very satisfying," he adds. 

Öztelcan holds a vast amount of international experience and believes this is one of the main values he brings to the company. Although Turkish by origin, Öztelcan has spent the majority of his working life outside of Turkey.

"I understand the international business – running an international company and setting international growth plans – and I think that's what the company was looking for in terms of leadership," he says. 

Öztelcan operates an open-door policy at TTI and likes to think that his staff can approach him directly with any issues, work-related or otherwise.

Delegation and empowerment stand as his particular management styles and he believes this is an effective method for company-wide growth. Outside of the office, Öztelcan enjoys both playing and watching football. "I support Fenerbahçe [one of the most successful Turkish football teams, based in Istanbul] and I'm a die-hard supporter," he says. 

Türk Telekom sponsors a number of football teams in Turkey and owns its own basketball team in the first division. Öztelcan likes the integration of work and football and says that when he visits TTI's Budapest office, he will often spend an evening in the week playing football with his employees.

As well as being an avid football supporter, Öztelcan is also interested in history and culture and believes this helps his international approach to business.

"If somebody comes to me and demonstrates certain knowledge of our Turkish history, I am impressed," he says. "So I take that and try to reverse it in the countries we do business in. I think it's a good way of showing respect."