Involving in company governance together with her mother and sister a short while after his father Ibrahim Hazal’s passing, Ulker Yazici is serving as the deputy chairman of the board of directors. With the interview we made with Yazici, she both told us about the company’s vision and shared his principles on business life with us.
FATMA BATUKAN BELGE
First of all thank you for sparing time fort his interview. We’re very glad to feature a young woman executive in our pages. You’re not even at your 30. They say the full passing to adulthood of a person is 30. What do you think about this? Is it possible that you grew ripe earlier because of the loss of your father and taking the helm when you’re not expecting it?
It’s very pleasing also for me to make this interview with you, so actually I thank you. I think being an adult may depend on every person’s life conditions and it’s not related directly with the age. If what we expect from the concept of adulthood is reaching maturity in terms of body, soul and emotions, I think you may be unable to fulfill this even at your 70.
In my opinion, this growing ripe thing is about going beyond being a kid of your parents and relating with them as different individuals. I think the maturity expected from adulthood is both being independent and self-confident enough to say “I” and attached to each other well enough to say ”we”. It’s being able to make the decisions to realize the things you want and take the responsibilities arising from this.
And my family’s way of raising me is the predominant motive which enables me to reach this awareness early.
Of course, human is in a move throughout its’ life, but what I can say for the sake of my own development; is that my family have considered my wishes and skills and always opened my way and supported me when I’m making my decisions.
When I unfortunately lost my father Ibrahim Hizal, the vital destination inputs that I just mentioned have stepped in on their own at a young age and showed me what I need to do. I don’t know whether it can be described as growing ripe which you asked but what I know is it’s realizing that Mister Ibrahim has already prepared my sisters and me for these days since our childhood.
Right after the high school, you have gone to London and finished your education there. How did living and studying in London contribute on your personal development? Was it getting out from the comfort zone in a sense?
In fact, it’s a usual thing for the last generations to settle in a different country or city by themselves and having an education there. No matter which part of the society you’re from, so many youth are experiencing this. Of course, being physically alone, socializing in a different language, a different culture make some of your awarenesses to show up. You experience yourself in a more objective environment with less benefits. King’s College London, University of London is a school that accepts students with specific criteria from all over the world. I saw where I’m among those dissimilarities, it added so much in me. I finished the school with high honor degree. I’m saying this because I want to underline that there was, is and will be always a goal for me, my bar is high. I spend most of my energy to be more knowing, better and truer.
Would you make different choices if the area of education you and your sister in management took weren’t determined by your father?
It’s a great chance to have a visioner father like Ibrahim Hizal who has a high foresight and analytic ability. He was really successful on very cleverly guiding us to right channels. I personally think that I’m in a place where I should be the way I want.
Having talks about business world and sector in our life continuously, conversations built on art and aesthetics, have guided us to these subjects in line with our fields of interest of necessity. While I made my choice towards management and business world my sister Beril Hizal had design education in Milano Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti and progressed in art and aesthetics.
Ceramic production is a toilsome field but one that brings a great added value. What are the challenges of ceramic production in Turkey? Are there any differences between a European producer and a Turkish producer?
My answer would be different if you had asked me this question three years ago, but criteria has changed a lot in today’s circumstances. First of all, the world is going through a very fast political and economic change. We’re having a very lively period of war in Europe and all together see the rebounds of this. We’re face to face with facts like difficulties in raw material supply, increase in energy input costs or distresses in energy supply which comes in the first place not just for Turkey but also for Europe. You of necessity have to find alternative supply sources or material, spent more time, labor and money to develop different recipes with R&D studies. And when it comes to energy, the world is now obliged to turn the face to renewable energy sources. It’s very valuable to ensure the continuity of ecology and sustainability. When we succeed in this many problems will be removed on their own already.
Apart from the difficulties of production, it’s possible to mention about various other challenges for we still see a low perceptional value as a Turkish brand especially in the European market compared to Italian and Spanish manufacturers. For this reason, I really value the “Turquality” content and approach.
As you know, Turkey is ranked as the third in the brands preferred in American market along with the Italian and Spanish manufacturers, we must read and assess this well.
In terms of manufacturer mentality, I see that European identities act in a more common conscious compared to us, the Turkish ones. To say so, the Turkish manufacturers have no drawbacks in technology and aesthetics compared to European ones. My only observation is that we can’t take persistent and consistent actions for the sake of Turkish ceramic sector and branding where we need to act with more common decisions and strategies and distribution of roles when necessary.
What Ibrahim Hizal was particularly accentuating on this; is that branching and competition should be with the manufacturers of other countries not within ourselves and I believe that heading towards this issue will constitute a solid basis.
What’s the way of expanding abroad for Turkish brands?
For many, the answer for this question may be quoting a good price for today where competitive conditions are becoming harder but for me, the basic criteria for long lasting, solid and profitable contacts; is to have a manufacturing and service manner oriented at customer needs. After all, quality is already our prerequisite concept.
Settings and conditions change but when your stand and strategy as a company is in a solid structure, your identity remains the stable even you adapt to the current situation with little retouches. This satisfies the trust and faith expectation that’s regarded the most by abroad customers so you’ll become an irreplaceable when you also add the quality alongside.
You’re exporting to many places but I wonder how you feel when you go to Paris for instance and see the subway stations coated with your products?
It must be about the selective perception thing but as I primarily focus my attention first at coating materials every time I visit somewhere throughout my life, it’s a proud to come across the products we manufactured in the many places I visit inland and abroad. This can be Paris as you exemplified Dubai or Hamburg…
Being abroad more often actually shows that our company is advancing towards its’ goals and it’s an incredibly motivating thing.
We can say that we come to the end of a pandemic which lasts so long. It’s a long time both for the private life of people and companies. How did you overcome this period as Hitit Seramik?
Manufacturing has never stopped during this period which started in March 2020. We implemented what’s required by Covid-19 conditions and rules and furthermore we made this certified. We carried out the whole process with uttermost control with our employees’ health coming at first and maintain the uninterrupted continuity of our business life. Even during the homeworking period with the most intense restrictions of the pandemic, we succeeded at satisfying the needs of our business partners all over the world by establishing the necessary digital infrastructure in our employees’ houses and keeping all communication channels for 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. We finalized the year of 2021 very brilliantly and closed it with a turnover growth of 25 percent. We continue with the same pace. We also took our precautions against recession and energy sourced problems in Europe expected in 2023.
Green Deal is on the agenda for some time now. Can we say that we’re in a new era in ceramic production? Dou you have considerations like using natural sources more smartly, polluting less, producing more eco-friendly products?
As I mentioned earlier the world has to turn its’ face to renewable energy sources in terms of power. They must use water more controlled. We have serious responsibilities to future generations.
While he was planting 40 thousand trees within the Hitit Seramik territory in 1991, becoming the first factory conforming to the Kyoto Protocol requirements, establishing water treatment and recycling plants regarding the in-factory water usage, opening our factory in Bozuyuk on a 150 thousand m2 territory intended for the reprocessing of idle tiles coming from manufacture and regaining them back to the economy and utilization, he was in that awareness.
Hitit Seramik is an establishment still moving with this mission and consciousness. For this reason, we are currently carrying out many projects such as EPD certification, carbon footprint measurement studies, solar power usage, antibacterial-fungal-viral hygiene surface applications that will ensure less water and chemical use.
Do you have any collaborations and projects in art and education?
As a person raised by this country and as required by the responsibility I feel for the new generations of this country, I always have an intention to touch and bring a favor to their educational life as Hitit Seramik. So we started a constitution in 2019. The “Put Your Hand Under The Stone” project is a social responsibility project put into practice by Hitit Seramik.
Consisting of two steps, the purpose of this project in collaboration with TEV, is both giving scholarship to students who are successful but have limited financial possibilities and improving the quality of education environments with the support of various people and institutions particularly from building sector. This project is started with the leadership of Hitit Seramik and put into practice with the collaboration of TEV. We’re open to project participators from all sectors except food sector, primarily from building sector.
Up until now, despite the pandemic conditions, we made supply donations to 20 schools and run campaigns to stand by earthquake victims, give our support to the project of visually impaired people’s accessibility in Kizilay and Anatolian Civilizations Museum. We provided education grants to the undergraduate students in medicine, law, design and ceramic departments.
I can say in brief that; as Hitit Seramik, we work with ambition for a better, more pleasant and habitable future.