Özgür Ekmekçioğlu, Chairman of the Board of Directors of EKMAS Group, appeared in the August issue of Gentlemen Turkey Magazine. Sharing footnotes on successful investments they have made in different sectors, Ekmekçioğlu gave information about the 35-year history of the EKMAS brand.
EKMAS, which dominates the sector with its strong 35-year history, continues its journey that started with Yıldız Fire today, with 16 companies, 15 fields of activity and more than 1000 employees.
EKMAS, whose primary aim is to add value to human life, is frequently mentioned with its investments in industry, construction, engineering, automotive, tourism, service, media, real estate and projected land sectors, where it carries out unique works.
Gentleman: EKMAS Group has left 35 years behind. We will talk about the story of the brand, but first we would like to start by getting to know you a little better.
Özgür Ekmekçioğlu: First of all, I enjoy using the word “from İzmir” when introducing myself. Being from Izmir; To me, it’s equivalent to achieving firsts. Izmir, the city that started and ended the War of Independence, is the city where the first trade exchange, the first fair, the first railway, the first navy were established and the first football match was played in our country. These firsts in trade, social organization and sports have provided significant advantages in my business life, social environment and sports club management over the years. I associate being from Izmir with the philosophy of “Good has no end”. While I was studying at Doğuş University Mechanical Engineering Department, establishing EKMAS at a young age and bringing it to its current position, rising to the Super League with three championship trophies in five seasons in Altay Sports Club, I was inspired by the philosophy of “Progress for the better” that Izmir brought to me. I got inspired. On the one hand, İzmir supports your creativity with the opportunities it offers, on the other hand, it creates a new opportunity for you to perfect what you are doing in the next step. I can easily say that this cycle is the most important factor that brought me success.
G: EKMAS Group provides services in more than 15 sectors. If we go back 35 years, how did his story begin?
Ö.E: EKMAS is a very important name for our family. It means “Ekmekçioğlu Family Company”. For us, EKMAS is an identity that we will proudly carry for the rest of our lives, a responsibility that falls on us, and a legacy we will leave to our children. The founder of our group, my father Rafet Ekmekçioğlu, after graduating from Gazi University Metallurgy Department in 1983, established Yıldız Fire company and laid the solid foundations of today. The process that started with Yıldız Fire has turned into the biggest fire protection and extinguishing systems and firefighting equipment company of our country, like A Fire today. All our companies operating in the fire sector are still managed by my father, Rafet Ekmekçioğlu. EKMAS, on the other hand, was founded with my preference for a sector suitable for my entrepreneur-investor identity instead of post-university industrialism. EKMAS consolidated its position, differentiated and specialized in a short time with the philosophy of doing flawless business coming from the Ekmekçioğlu Family. We have gained a very important momentum in the automotive sector. We are the focal point of İzmir in PSA Group vehicles such as Opel, Citroen and Peugeot. In Opel, we became the first in Turkey in commercial vehicle sales performance and the 4th in the Region for end-of-sale performance in 2019. In 2020, we received three first places in Turkey in terms of customer satisfaction and operational quality, commercial vehicle sales performance and sales target realization performance. We ended 2021 with İzmir’s first place in sales performance. In 2002, we were awarded the title of dealer of the year in Turkey, and we became the first in Turkey in realizing the commercial vehicle sales target and in PSA finance loans.
G: Which sectors are you currently operating in?
Ö.E: Even though everyone knows EKMAS with the modern building, which is a marvel of design, we have built in Mavişehir, we have been doing business in seven main sectors for a long time. We have a strong presence in the fields of construction, automotive, engineering, industry, service, media and investment. REO is under the umbrella of EKMAS as our brand in the engineering and industrial sectors. We have also specialized in the service sector with shopping mall management, insurance and sports investments. The entire EKMAS Family contributes to the development of our country with its 15 different sectors and a thousand employees.
G: If we talk about the building side first, we see that EKMAS Yapı has carried out many projects since 2014. Can we get some information about your featured projects?
Ö.E: Orhan Pamuk says in his New Life book, “I read a book one day and my whole life changed”. This is exactly what we experienced when entering the construction industry. We wanted to one day build a building and replace all known patterns. EKMAS MAVİŞEHİR, which looks like the only building in Mavişehir, actually consists of three separate blocks, is unique in terms of technology, architecture, air conditioning and building safety, was born as our prestige project. We say, ‘Every EKMAS structure is strong and comfortable. Every EKMAS structure is valuable and we act with the philosophy that every EKMAS structure protects and keeps people alive. If you want to express EKMAS in a short and single sentence, I would say “Strength is in its Basis“. The basis here is both the strong and well-established structure of the Ekmekçioğlu Family and the strength and durability of the EKMAS structures. The Mavişehir project enabled us to position ourselves in a different way. Right after, we completed a unique and distinctive project in Manisa. Consisting of 72 residences, EKMAS MANİSA has become the most valuable housing project in the region with its social areas, landscape and features such as architecture, technology and building safety. Now, we have started our EKMAS RESIDENCE project, which is only 18 minutes away from Adnan Menderes Airport in the north direction. EKMAS RESIDENCE, where we offer very different square meters, number of rooms and alternatives to investors, will be completed in 2024. The point I wanted to draw attention to in all three of our projects was the completion of almost all of the sales before the launch, which is the most important indicator of the trust placed in our company.
G: What will be the projects that you will start selling in the near future?
Ö.E: We are implementing ION, the most exclusive villa project of İzmir, in Foça with Biva Architecture. The construction of the project, which consists of 90 villas and four different types of residences with gardens, continues at full speed. Right in the heart of Foça, in the nature, ION Villas, where luxury and naturalness are intertwined, will give a new direction to the villa concept style in Izmir, just like EKMAS MAVİŞEHİR. In a very short time, we will take our place in Alaçatı, the most prestigious place of our country’s tourism, with a magnificent project. In addition, we will build structures in Karşıyaka, Aliağa and Menemen, which you can call EKMAS Style of Life, which are based on their strength and which protect the valuable and valuable.
G: Do you have a project realization plan in Istanbul?
Ö.E: Very few companies are based in İzmir and have implemented branded housing projects in Istanbul. I can only count one or two at first. Istanbul is a region that has been on your radar for a long time and we have received many offers. It is among our short-term plans to introduce the EKMAS style of life to Istanbul. The location that can reflect EKMAS quality is naturally of great importance for us.
G: The increased exchange rate also affected the costs. How is the construction industry spending this year? What precautions have you taken against these processes?
Ö.E: The increasing exchange rate and the costs arising from the exchange rate differences had a negative impact on the housing sector in general, like every other sector. But I want to give you an example. Prices also increased in the automobile sector depending on the foreign currency, but the demand never stopped. Because the quality of the automotive industry has enabled cars to become an investment instrument for users. At this point, concepts such as trust and quality came to the fore. The consumer directed his preference towards instruments that would make no mistakes and have the lowest risk. The prices of luxury and brand housing projects such as EKMAS have also increased with the increasing exchange rate. However, this negative situation did not reflect much on the sales. Because the consumer preferred to use his preference in favor of trust, quality and winning. In my opinion, such crises make strong brands even stronger. Companies that turned the crisis into an opportunity and invested before the crisis, instead of shrinking during the crisis, spend this process unaffected.
G: What’s on the investment side?
Ö.E: EKMAS Investment, in fact, very much identifies with my entrepreneur-investor identity, which I underlined at the beginning of the interview. I am a quick thinker and quick player. My ability to make quick decisions and live, for example, is the most important factor enabling us to advance to the Super League with three cups in five seasons with Altay. In this respect, EKMAS Investment is a structure that we have grown by revealing our strongest muscles. Here, with the system we call the “Sharing Economy”, we have set up a process where we will do great things with strong business partners. In this way, we have taken important steps in a very short time. In the EKMAS Investment Family, experienced names such as Barış Soydan, Lawyer Zeliha Zülal Yiğiner and Nilgün Coşkun, as well as Yoshinari Moriwaka and Ayhan Sicimoğlu are included in the consultant team.
G: Saff KAZDAGLARI is one of the projects that has been mentioned frequently in recent years. Speaking of which, can we get some information about him?
Ö.E: The Kaz Mountains are the lungs of our country. While it hosts around 800 plant species belonging to 101 families, there are 29 plant taxa. It is among the regions with the most oxygen in the world. As we set out to make a project that will become the apple of the world’s eye in a region where the whole world is watching, our only goal was to enrich the natural life here. We aimed for more plant species, more trees and more green. Village Products Center, Local Shop, where you can access natural products plucked from their branches at any time, Endemic Plants Center specific to the region and only for these lands, Endemic Herbs Tour and Seed Warehouse have been added to the project. Mushroom picking trips where you can access bear, kanji and many other mushroom species, Vintage Tour where you can collect the last harvest with local residents, eco farms inspired by the natural life of Kaz Mountains and ecological restaurants where you can feel the taste of Kaz Mountains on your palate, olive oil food stop, Yörük Market Dishes, From the World We created a style by blending flavors, the center of the Olive Workshop, inherited from Ancient Civilizations, the spirit of Kaz Mountains with the modern philosophy of life. Saff KAZDAGLARI is more than a building project, it is a vision project that will highlight the natural and historical features of Kaz Mountains. It is one of the most important vision projects of EKMAS Investment in the recent period. Branded as the purest form of architecture, the purest state of nature and the purest state of luxury, Saff KAZDAGLARI consists of geometric patterns called Voronoi Diagram, which is observed in the existence of many living things and objects and organizes the forms in nature. Nature-friendly tree houses and natural stone structures are at the center of this diagram. Saff KAZDAGLARI won four international awards, including the Luxury Natural Life of the Year Award at the beginning of the road.
G: Recently, interest in land investment seems to have increased in addition to housing investment. You also have land projects that you have developed at various points in Turkey. Can you tell us about them?
Ö.E: Turkey has an area of 783 thousand 562 square kilometers. Under normal circumstances, this is not possible. However, our population is gradually increasing and we have now reached 85 million people. The land area remains the same. If the population increases, the land prices increase regardless of any variable. Land has been and will remain the most important investment instrument for years. However, it is very important to make the right land investment in an environment where prices are so high. This is where EKMAS Investment comes into play, providing the investors, who are confused by concepts such as hobby garden, shared land, tiny house land, with zoning, infrastructure and trouble-free land opportunities. We are currently selling land in very important locations such as Ankara, Assos, Avşa, Ezine, Dikili, Kuşadası and Milas. We will add different tourism regions of İzmir to this portfolio very soon.
G: Land investments are generally long-term investments, but we see that the projects you offer are projects that will turn into profits in the short term. Could you tell us what the risks and advantages are?
Ö.E: If a land has zoning, roads, electricity, shares, housing, water and infrastructure problems, it becomes a very long-term investment tool. However, EKMAS Investment lands are presented to the investor with all their problems resolved. All are zoned. And a zoned land turns into the most important investment tool in the short term. In this respect, it has zero risk for the investor.
G: What is on the tourism side? We would especially like to hear about Crocus and Galia.
Ö.E: The Crocus is a 131-foot, 6-cabin superyacht. Crocus, captained by Alp Gören, provides an excellent blue voyage opportunity and brings sports, entertainment, pleasure, peace, sport and freedom with it. Our service journey, which started to offer the most unforgettable tastes in the highest quality environment, continues with Galia Restaurant in Bodrum, one of Turkey’s favorite locations. We appeal to the palate with the indescribable flavors we offer in the accompaniment of a mystical atmosphere, and we create works of art from seafood. In line with our founding philosophy and the quality policies we have adopted, we never compromise on the quality of “Galia” in this journey where we bring you together with unique tastes.
G: As EKMAS Group, you have a structure that gives importance to technology. What comes to mind about EKMAS when technology is mentioned?
Ö.E: Talkstar is a very special application that provides the opportunity to chat with the stars and started life under the roof of EKMAS Investment. We are in constant communication with the cores within the universities. Technology investment is a very accurate field, but it also requires serious expertise. We started to work to establish the necessary human resources infrastructure. We will make an EKMAS-style investment in this regard in a very short time.
G: Are there any new sectors that you are considering entering in the near future?
Ö.E: Instead of entering new sectors, we focused on a stronger brand perception at this stage. We aim to bring the EKMAS brand to the level of a national brand, inspired by the land of its birth. We believe that preserving and strengthening the brand instead of expanding it will help us reach our goals in a more solid way and we are working in this direction.
G: Do you have plans for abroad?
Ö.E: EKMAS is a rooted and strong tree. It first grew in its own lands, namely in Izmir, and became deeply rooted and firm. Each branch has expanded to different sectors, from construction to automotive. In the next step, one of its branches will definitely extend to Istanbul and then abroad. We are receiving and evaluating proposals for the first step of this to be in the construction sector and in Azerbaijan, the USA and Germany.
G: What do you do in your free time if we get out of work for a bit?
Ö.E: I have a very busy work schedule. I spend at least three days a week between Izmir and Istanbul. Even in his spare time, he usually has business lunches. The most special and reserved hours for me are in the morning. I wake up very early and set aside 3-4 hours just for myself. This time is enough to read, watch a movie or TV series, and take a quick look at the news.
G: What kind of clothing style do you have outside of work? We’d love to learn about your favorite brands.
Ö.E: I have a smart casual style. Usually black pants, white t-shirt and black jacket. This style, which I chose during the five-year Altay Club Presidency, has now become indispensable for me. I definitely use my shoe preference for MC Quenn. The T-shirt is Lacoste, the jacket is Damat Tweeen, and the pants are Prada.
G: Do you like watches?
Ö.E: I have a very special Rolex collection. Even though my dressing style does not change, I take care to use a different Rolex almost every day.
G: What is your preference in cars and boats?
Ö.E: I really like and prefer all PSA group tools. The boat comes to my rescue when I have to run away from everything. Crocus is always my only choice.
G: What are your favorite dishes and restaurants?
Ö.E: İzmir is a place with very special tastes. Nothing can take the place of Aegean cuisine. I take care to choose the restaurants opened in Urla in the last 10 years. Ferdi Baba and Deniz are my first choices for fish and Seçkin Et for meat. Galia is always indispensable.
G: Where were your vacation routes this summer?
Ö.E: I haven’t really taken a vacation yet. I went to Çeşme, Bodrum and Marmaris for short periods of time, but there were really short, one or two-day holidays.
G: Your life motto?
Ö.E: My favorite sentence in Richard Bach’s legendary book Seagull was “There is no such thing as competent speed for Seagull”. The equivalent of this sentence, which summarizes Jonathan Seagull’s philosophy of life, is “Good has no end”, which symbolizes continuous improvement and the pursuit of perfection.
G: Where do you feel most at peace?
Ö.E: In one word, my home…
G: How is your relationship with football? Which is your favorite team?
Ö.E: I was the president of Altay, the most beautiful club in the world, for five years. We took office in the Third League and moved up to the Super League with three championships in five seasons. I had the most exciting days of my life. I experienced the most joyful joys and the greatest sorrows. Being a great Altai is a very special feeling indeed.
G: Finally, let’s end our conversation with what you want to add…
Ö.E: Thank you. I just want to add a short note, EKMAS Sportive Activities, from which we took over the shares of Menemen FK and Bergama FK, will continue its investments in the sports sector. We will take part not only in football but also in different sports branches.