Published on March 5th, 2014 | by SayginYalcin0
Interview: Saygin Yalcin
Some entrepreneurs seem unstoppable. Some entrepreneurs appear to have more time at their disposal than everybody else, helping them achieve more in a day than most of us could achieve in a week.
Saygin Yalcin appears to be one of those entrepreneurs.
The German businessman with Turkish descent, who studied in Europe, the US and Mexico before arriving in the Middle East with Sukar.com, has recently launched the region’s first car buying service – SellAnyCar.com. Overseeing the entire operation, he also finds time to lecture at the Canadian University of Dubai, as well as serve as a partner of Souq.com and Jabbar Internet Group, and sit on boards of various other small businesses.
Speed, it would appear, is of paramount importance to Yalcin, who doesn’t turn 30 years old until later this year. But as he explains, it’s more his thorough preparation which allows him to be so active so much of the time.
“Before going into any business I’m probably one of the slowest people you could imagine,” he says.
“But when I decide to go into a business, I’m one of the fastest. With SellAnyCar I conducted a lot of research before deciding anything. I did 50 expert interviews with everybody from potential customers, potential sellers, and everybody else. I needed to know if it made sense. I did a lot of calculations – it took months to decide whether or not to go into it.
“When I’d made the decision I acted very quickly. We’ve already gone into three new markets and are going into entire Middle East. We are already in nine locations in UAE in just six months.
“We set out to be a convenient service, and we deliver on our promise – we are everywhere you are. If you live in Ajman, you’ll find us. We’re inside malls in Abu Dhabi to give people really easy experience. You can drop off the car, go to shop, and pick up your cheque before being taken home by one of our chauffeurs. It’s a game-changing experience.”
Describing himself as a “serial entrepreneur”, Yalcin explains that he’s never looking to reinvent the wheel with his businesses, but rather “looking for which wheel will fit in the Middle East”.
The concept of providing a quick, easy, and convenient car buying service has proved a successful model across Europe, prompting Yalcin to explore the possibility of introducing something similar in a region where selling your car can be something of a minefield.
He explains: “Selling cars in the Middle East is a major hassle for a lot of people. It can be time wasting, and a lot of people are being given false information about the condition of their car, meaning people aren’t getting a fair price.
“When we looked at it, there really wasn’t an effective way to sell care here, especially with all the documentation you need to put together. And there’s no guarantee you would get your money. Somebody could give you a cheque that will bounce, and already be out of the country before you realise it. For this reason, and many others, we thought it was a big problem, and that we could solve it.
“This business model solves huge problems for customers. There’s no paperwork, you instantly get your money, and we really will take any car.”
This isn’t just lip-service. Having bought cars for more than one million dirhams, and as little as one dirham, Yalcin says: “We will never reject a car. It doesn’t really matter to us – it could be three years in the sea and we’ll still take it.”
Having established a global network of buyers, Yalcin is confident that he will be able to sell on any car, no matter the condition, allowing him to be transparent and genuine in his assertion that he will accept any car, no matter how decrepit.
And transparency is something he believes is a key feature throughout every aspect of his business, especially when it comes to the valuation of each vehicle – something which has the potential to make or break it.
“The first thing is that you get a free inspection with no obligation to sell,” he says.
“In this region there is a problem with telling the truth to customers, and we want to change that. We will tell you a fair price which is based on retail valuations, and our own experience in the field. Many people, when they see the value of the car, like to go away, do some of their own research, get some quotes, and then come back to us. It’s good for people to do that because they will be able to see we’re being fair.
“Some people are disappointed with the price we quote them, but when they check it out they are realise it’s fair. Other people are pleasantly surprised – they thought it would be much less.
“Unlike a lot of private dealers and buyers, we can’t run away. If we were to give you an unfair price, it would be very negative for us. If we were to give a bad cheque, you know exactly where to find us, and we have to be held accountable.
“So the way we do things has to be perfect – our customer service has to be incredibly high.
“If we do things the right way, this is a billion dollar project, so we have to be focused on every aspect which makes it attractive to customers.”
The business has already taken steps to becoming a major player in the region. Yalcin reveals that, only six months in, he has adapted the “very aggressive” business plan to make provision for even greater achievements than initially forecast.
And the reason behind its success, according the entrepreneur, is a combination of the region’s transient population, its car culture, and the build-up of distrust between buyers and sellers.
“The UAE is a very automotive driven place,” he says. “The number of car changes is very high – expats come and go, and new models come out all the time with many people wanting to be seen driving the latest thing.
“Cars are an integral part of the UAE.
“We’re helping people to think about selling cars in a different way, and they are believing in us. Customers finally have somebody they can trust to give them a fair valuation and an easy service, and we’re already the number one car dealer with the most appointments in the Middle East. We’re getting hundreds of people coming to us every day.
“And this is just the beginning.”
With geographic expansion on the horizon, Yalcin aims to have multiple outlets across the Middle East, with a view to becoming the region’s go-to car buying service.
And at the rate he’s progressed already, it’s hard to doubt that his ambition will become reality, strengthening his position as one of the region’s finest young entrepreneurs.
You could say he is a born entrepreneur, but this is something the businessman would refute.
“I believe there’s no such thing as being born an entrepreneur,” he says.
“It’s more to do with your environment and education – the circles you grow up it and the necessity to become an entrepreneur.”
A keen advocate of entrepreneurship, especially among young people, Yalcin dedicates a lot of his time to encouraging young people with entrepreneurial tendencies, and has lectured for the past year on ‘entrepreneurship and e-commerce’ at the Canadian University of Dubai.
He continues: “I like to promote what an entrepreneur is and what the steps of becoming one are, in the hope it awakens it in people. If somebody has entrepreneurial spirit, I try to make sure they know what to do with it.”
Having been a major part of the entrepreneurial scene in recent years, he can pinpoint the major issues facing online start-ups.
Financing is one challenge which he identifies as providing a big hurdle for many people, exacerbated by the lack of local investors.
“Venture capital from regional investors is so rare,” he says. “There’s a trend for start-ups in Jordan and the UAE to get more funding now, but it’s still hard to get above $1m. It’s still a challenge for anybody to get more than $500,000, unless you have a strong background or network.
“The money comes mainly from investors who aren’t from here. Other more mature regions have seen how lucrative internet business can be, and are willing to put their finances into a developing market.
“There’s a lot of money coming into this market from the US, Europe and South Africa, which is great for certain entrepreneurs, but on the other hand it’s a pity because it should be local investors who are leading the way.
“It’s great to invest in oil and gas, and real estate, but they are missing out on a big opportunity.”
Claiming there is an imminent internet boom waiting to happen not only in the UAE and GCC, but the wider Arab world, Yalcin believes that education is the only way regional investors will make the most of it.
He also believes a major sea-change is occurring which will dramatically change the way the region operates online.
“When I was studying, internet business wasn’t really common. The way it’s evolved in a short space of time is incredible. Social media in particular has grown massively, and continues to grow all the time.
“This is having a big impact on the way things work here, and it’s helping the region catch up with the rest of the world.
“If you think back ten years, how many of your friends or people you know can claim they grew up with the internet in the Middle East? Nobody can say that. But in the US people were already online for several years. If look at five years ago, Europeans could say they grew up with internet, but in Middle East they still couldn’t say that.
“This generation is different. They can say they grew up using the internet, social media, and so on. It’s the first and biggest indication that things are ready to change. In three to five years, when these people growing up with the internet now have enough money to buy online regularly, , and set up their own businesses, things will be very different.
“It’s just a matter of time before there are some big developments here.”
One of the main aspects of this imminent change, according to Yalcin, is that of mindset.
Trust, especially, needs to be built by local brands in order to secure funding from home or abroad, otherwise foreign companies will continue to blossom in the region at homegrown talent’s expense.
He says: “Businesses from mature markets are the first ones to enjoy the fruits of developing markets. They enjoy much more trust than local brands.
“There aren’t enough trustworthy players outside the major ones that can deliver the quality of service that’s required to change perceptions. So we need to work on both sides. Venture capitalists need to put more money into the local businesses, and the local businesses need to prove they are worth it.
“We need investors to help create an entrepreneur-friendly environment, and then we will see some big changes.”
Being a change-maker himself, you wouldn’t bet against Yalcin being at the centre of development in the region for years to come.
Provided, of course, he can find the time.
Source: Arabian Business, http://www.arabianbusiness.com/interview-saygin-yalcin-541384.html?page=0