For our profile of the month, What’s New Jakarta sat down with Turkish Airlines Indonesia’s General Manager, Mr. Mehmet Gurulkan. As the head of the Turkish flag-carrier in Indonesia, Mehmet shared with us about Turkish Airlines in Indonesia, challenges of doing business in Indonesia and his opinions about Jakarta.
Hello Mr. Mehmet, thanks for your time for the interview. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Mehmet Gurulkan, originally from Turkey, and I am the General Manager of Turkish Airlines in Indonesia. I first joined Turkish airline in 2009, and before finally appointed to my position in Indonesia, I had been working in the headquarters for 4 years, and then in Luxembourg for around a year and a half and since june 2014, I have been posted here in Jakarta to manage our business in Indonesia.
Tell us a little bit about Turkish Airlines in Indonesia.
We first started flying to Jakarta in 1998. At that time, Turkish Airlines was quite a small company before it went private in 2003. It was totally government-owned. After the tsunami, we stopped flying for quite some time, until in 2009, when we started flying here again via Singapore and starting from May last year, we started fly direct from Jakarta to Istanbul.
How has the market reacted to the Turkish Airlines’ direct flight to Istanbul?
So far, we’ve been very happy with the performance of the destination. Istanbul’s position makes it a great hub for those visiting Europe; from Istanbul to Vienna, we can fly less than 2 hours. So when you’ve finished your flight from Jakarta to Istanbul, you are basically in Europe.
But at the moment, our main market is for travelers flying into Europe, because we fly to more than 100 cities in the continent. We can say that we fly to an airport every 200 kilometers, and elsewhere in the world, we also have a very extensive network, with huge variety of destinations. We don’t only take you to main hubs, but also to smaller cities in one country; we take you to Salzburg, Bilbao, even Toulouse, for example, a city that’s quite rare to fly into for an international airline our size.
What are the benefits that you offer the Indonesian market?
There are certain benefits that we offer our Indonesians customers. We are particularly very proud of our product; we have been selected as Europe’s Best Airline for the last 5 years, and we also have the world’s best lounge in Istanbul. Not many other airlines our size, with more than 300 aircraft, that offers the quality that we have. And among the other European airlines that fly to Indonesia, we are currently the only one that flies direct.
So if you do a comparison, our European friends all stop in other cities. But with us, you only need to do one long flight, stop in Istanbul, and take your short flight to literally anywhere in Europe.
What’s the biggest market that you target?
We target any kinds of travelers. We have a corporate program that we offer companies that allow them to get multiple benefits; for the leisure travelers, we offer many exciting destinations in Europe and also worldwide, so you can make your travel experience unique, exploring new and more exotic destinations.
We are not an airline that only targets a small group. Our main target is to grow. We currently have daily flight, and in the future, we hope to increase it to twice daily.
What destinations can you recommend for first visitors of Turkey?
As with the classic tours would advise, a Turkey visit would need to Istanbul, obviously, and Capadoccia. But beyond that, turkey has a lot more to give; there is Izmir, the third largest city in the country, and then to the east of turkey with its beautiful ski resorts. This is something that Indonesians haven’t yet explored and should. Not a lot of people know that ski tourism is very big in turkey, with ski resorts that I think fare better than those in Europe. And price wise, it is very reasonable too.
What has been your biggest challenge doing business in Indonesia?
Of course, we have different challenges in here; competition is obviously there all the time, where ever you go. Secondly, the ties between Turkey and Indonesia are undoubtedly very strong, but businesswise, it hasn’t really developed yet. But usually, as we start to fly somewhere, the business with Turkey also develops. So after we started flying here last year, we hopefully will see more development in this. For example, Last year we took some Turkish delegations to Indonesia to venture some business opportunities in Indonesia. As the business develops, we’ll obviously grow too.
In regards to business customs, when I first came here, the way people do business is obviously quite different than what I am used to. For example, at first people found me quite direct; because I like to talk to the point, sit for 15-20 minutes, get down and discuss the main points, etc. and that’s it.
Here, I found that people like to chat a bit, talk about non-business topics, then talk business. It took me about a year to get used to that, the Indonesian style.
What was your first impression when you arrived in Jakarta?
It was definitely a surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting to come to the Far East, especially to Indonesia. Before being appointed in Jakarta, I had no idea about the country, so it was definitely a big question mark for me. The first time I arrived here, of course, it felt huge. Especially after being in Luxembourg, The population, the traffic—it was totally the other way around.
The first couple of months were very amusing for me. Every half an hour, I was surprised with everything; seeing the people, the environment. I mean, you don’t even see a banana tree in Europe, so imagine the awe for me. Everything is surprising.
Had you lived in other parts of Asia before?
No. this was my first experience living in Asia. I had previously only visited Vietnam for 10 days, 2 years before coming here. But not to live.
What other parts of Indonesia that you’ve been to?
I’ve been to Lombok, Bali. Going around Jakarta, when I have time, of course. Indonesia is a very beautiful country. When I visited Bali, I was expecting tranquility, silence—things you expect from a ‘tropical paradise’. But it’s the other way around, it is a crazy place! Maybe it’s because I wasn’t very lucky with my choices of tourist spots. But I prefer the more tranquil Lombok, with nice little islands around it.
What do you do in your free time?
I usually spend time with my wife exploring Jakarta, doing what many people do around here. Enjoy the malls, swim, try new places to eat. In the long weekend, we try to see new places, escape from Jakarta.
What do you miss from hometown?
My Family, the food, and my friends. I don’t miss the weather too much, because I prefer the hot weather!
What’s New Jakarta would like to thank Mr. Mehmet Gurulkan and his team for the time and opportunity for the interview. For more information about Turkish Airlines, visit www.turkishairlines.com. Turkish Airlines operates scheduled services to 280 destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, making it the fourth-largest carrier in the world by number of destinations and is also the operator that flies to most countries. Turkish Airlines has been a member of the Star Alliance network since 1 April 2008 and has been chosen at the SKYTRAK World Airline Award as Europe’s Best Airline for 5 years in a row.