Almost 20 years ago, in 2002, Bahtiyar Karakoc started his own production of elevators in the Turkish city of Giresun. Then, on 6,000 m2, he organized a production site, where he began to produce automatic shaft and cabin doors. The company was named Prolift.
After some time, the Prolift Asansör factory was built in the city of Bursa, on a site almost three times larger than in Giresun. Here Karakoc was able to launch a truly large-scale production of elevators and components for them on three professional lines of the highest class equipment. Today, constantly increasing the volume and improving the quality of goods, Prolift annually produces about one hundred and fifty thousand elevator doors and about five thousand elevators. Products are sold in more than 50 countries around the world.
Burc Bakkal, managing director of the Turkish company Prolift, photo © Burc Bakkal
Prolift R on the Russian market
- How do you feel in Russian business?
- Comfortable. First of all, Russian businessmen are honest people. If you shook hands, then there is nothing to worry about - the agreement will remain unbreakable. In Russia, you can earn money if you are really busy, and the Turks live according to a different principle: if you noticed something profitable, you did it yourself. And so everyone. As a result, the competition is colossal, but there is no money ... But the main thing is that the Russians accept the set price. Unlike the Turks, who will bring it down to a minimum, when it is no longer profitable to work.
And, among other things, do not forget that about five hundred elevator production facilities are currently operating in Turkey. In Russia, there are no more than 25 of them. Turks produce spare parts for elevators at 4,200 factories, while Russians do not produce them at all ... That is why I like the conditions here for both work and life.
- Your career is an example of vertical growth with access to the international arena. How did you manage it?
- I didn’t think about it. In fact, our business originates in Turkey, although we are developing it in Russia. Today Prolift is the largest elevator manufacturing facility in Europe and is headquartered in Bursa. There I have been dealing with the logistics of our products around the world for quite a long time. But once I thought about what a colossal market we had not yet mastered in Russia. With this thought I went to my friend, the founder of the Prolift company, Bahtiyar Karakoc. Together we discussed my idea and decided to move in this direction. As a result, I took over as managing director of Prolift R, and my father-in-law sat in the chair of the CEO of the new company.
Burc Bakkal (to the left) and Bahtiyar Karakoc (to the right), photo © Burc Bakkal
- Since what year have you been working in Russia?
- Since 2019. We opened in Ryazan - entered the elevator renovation program, and then continued cooperation with commercial enterprises. Today 15 people work for me. We have organized a large warehouse from which the elevators are sold, as well as a separate unit dealing with the delivery, installation and maintenance of products. However, we will not dwell on this - the master plan defines the launch of our own production in the territory of the Russian Federation. At this stage, we are looking for a suitable place.
- Logistics and launching a new business are completely different competencies ... Why do you think your partner entrusted you with this business?
- First of all, because I know our business very well. In addition, I speak Russian excellently, and the absence of language barriers is extremely important for business. But my connection with Russia played a key role in this decision. My wife is Russian, and I started my business with my father-in-law, so I am responsible for him with my own reputation. Realizing this fact, my partner set a condition: the representative office will be open if I stay in Russia.
Professor of Elevators. Bahtiyar Karakoc
- Bahtiyar Karakoc. Tell us about this successful entrepreneur.
- "Professor of Elevators." That's what I call him. He started with the installation of elevators cabins - as a teenager he began to work in mines, and then moved to a factory and worked as a mechanic for some time. He was not yet 30 when he launched his own small production in Giresun - he made only two lifts a month, but from these volumes he found resources for expansion. However, two years later, Bakhtiyar decided that it was worth temporarily stopping at the production of exclusively elevator doors. Then he came up with a special door lock, which he presented at a major exhibition. The device was highly appreciated, the first orders started flowing right away ... and like this, gradually, over 10 years, Bakhtiyar built his own business. When it grew significantly, we moved to Bursa, where we finally launched a full cycle of elevator production. I consider Bakhtiyar a great entrepreneur, one of those about whom books with success stories are written.
- Have you learned something from your partner over the years?
- Bahtiyar is at work every day. He arrives at the factory one of the first, even before 7 o'clock, and immediately gets down to business. This is his principle, which he sets as an example to all employees of the factory.
This person is always honest in business. In a conflict situation, he will even replace products to his own detriment at his own expense. But the main thing is that Bahtiyar is very fond of his work.
Bahtiyar Karakoc, founder and owner of Prolift, photo © Burc Bakkal
- At the same time, your first assistant is a father-in-law. How do you divide the functionality?
- I make key decisions, and I gave the "operating system" to Oleg Shatrov. If the matter concerns some important issues, we discuss them and make a decision together. My father-in-law does not lack wisdom: he was a metallurgist, then a successful businessman ... I am an explosive by nature, therefore we balance each other. The family business format is very comfortable for me. We leave the "work" in the warehouse building and do not take it home. I am very pleased that we are able to maintain this strong position.
- What qualities of Oleg Shatrov are especially useful in business?
- He likes to take risks and never stops halfway. He is always in a positive mood, so he does not give up even in difficult situations. I can safely trust him, and this is perhaps the main thing.
Volumes, prospects and plans
- Why did you choose Ryazan and not Moscow, for example?
- There are much more opportunities for the development of our business. Being engaged in entrepreneurial activity, I came to the conclusion that it is easier for a large business in a small town than for a small entrepreneur in a metropolis.
- Tell us how your business has grown in two years.
- We are newcomers to the Russian market and therefore we are expanding systematically. First, one company buys our products, then tests it for six months to make sure of quality and safety, and only then begins to recommend us to other customers.
Our elevators come to Ryazan by trucks from Novorossiysk, where our parent company delivers them by sea. At this stage, we are selling five trucks every month: 60 lifts have already been sold in a year, and a hundred are planned by the end of the year. We are confidently expanding the geography of supplies and will triple our sales plan next year. Now, by the way, we closed the contract for the supply of 15 cabins for a large Ryazan hospital.
Burc Bakkal and Bahtiyar Karakoc at the Prolift factory, photo © Burc Bakkal
- Shipping by sea is cheaper?
- It's just that this delivery method is the fastest and easiest. I have no doubt that the ordered cabins and components will arrive in Novorossiysk exactly on time.
- Does your company produce standard products or does Prolift also carry out exclusive orders?
- Our production facilities allow us to fulfill absolutely any orders. We have supplied to our factory the most high-tech lines for today and therefore we can produce both the cheapest and the most expensive models in a wide variety of configurations. Our certificate informs the buyer that Prolift lifts have a lifting capacity of up to 3 tonnes, but in fact, they can easily lift the weight, almost twice as much. In addition, we produce safety catches and other components ... About 5,000 lifts and 160,000 doors leave our factory every year.
- How do you see the Russian market?
- In general, it is very promising. This year we have sent one and a half hundred elevators to Europe, and in the future we want to sell three hundred in Russia. Assess the perspective yourself.
- The Turkish company Prolift will soon celebrate its 20th anniversary. How has it changed over the years?
- We have been manufacturing only lift doors for 16 years and occupied more than 2/3 of this market in Turkey. Then we opened a factory in Bursa, and this place gave us new prospects for growth. We had 6,000 m2 of land, and now it is almost 20,000 m2, so we were able to expand the production to three lines. Now we have purchased the same number of "squares" not far from the factory and are going to produce winches there in the near future. Our production has grown so much that today it provides a full cycle from "A" to "Z". We are going to go to an IPO in four years.
Production hall of the Prolift factory, photo © Burc Bakkal
- Who do you consider your main competitors?
- Turkish and Chinese companies. We have no competitors among Europeans, since their prices are significantly higher. We also do not consider Russian manufacturers as competitors, since their products are inferior in quality.
The quality is European, the price is "Chinese"
- Tell us about the benefits of your products.
- It is important to know one thing about Prolift elevators: it is European quality, which is sold at a "Chinese" price. We give a five-year warranty on our elevators, and twice as much for components. In addition, on the market our products are approximately 5% cheaper than similar products from other manufacturers.
- And this despite the complex logistics?
- Delivery of our goods to Russia is relatively cheap. We bring five lifts in a wagon. Five such trucks arrive every month, each for $ 3,500. Thus, the logistics cost us only $ 700 for each elevator.
- What is the share of imports?
- About 25%. At the same time, a fairly large percentage of imports is also present in Russian products. The pricing principle in our segment is approximately the same for everyone. Please note that Chinese-made products remain cheap, although both transportation costs and VAT are included in their cost. Therefore, in this market, everything is fine with us.
- Who are your key customers?
- Today we sell most of our products to construction, design and installation organizations.
- What questions do customers usually care about?
- First of all, the payment algorithm. For our conditions, I brought out the most convenient, in my opinion: 50% - an advance payment, the rest - after the customer accepts the order.
They are also interested in the availability of a warehouse, since there are many consumables in the construction of elevators. A penny part is broken, and the launch of the elevator has to wait for weeks. We always have a stock of consumables in our warehouse and, in addition, we regularly review and replenish the assortment.
Production hall of the Prolift factory, photo © Burc Bakkal
- Doesn't the quality bother buyers?
- Not especially, since stainless steel always remains a stainless steel. No competent manufacturer will say that the elevator from his factory is of the highest quality. A lot depends on the installation: the elevator can be brought in perfect condition, but if it is poorly installed, it will not work. We hired a separate employee who is responsible for acceptance and delivery. We also have a wonderful installer supervising the installation of the elevator. But we want to develop and therefore plan to expand the service by the end of the year.
- Describe the most up-to-date elevator.
- Our elevators do not have an engine room, since this design is already outdated. Its presence is relevant, for example, in the elevators of installation organizations, but in construction companies it is no longer needed. Such models consume a lot of energy, make noise ... In some cases, the engine room is asked to save money, and then we install elevators for this amount using new technology. I want to note that we do not produce high-speed elevators - our models reach speeds of up to 1.6 m / s.
But as for the design, we have it in any model at the level of the business class. Modern screens, buttons that are supplied to us by special order ... By the way, for one Moscow customer we are now making elevators with golden cabins and 10-inch screens. They can be easily used as a showroom.
- Tell us, what do you think about when you enter another's elevator?
- I always pay attention to the operation of the door mechanism: how fast the doors opens. I also analyze the speed of stopping, the sounds of work. I understand how thick the cabin is, by its vibration ... Such is the professional deformation.
Burch Bakkal in the production hall of the Prolift factory, photo © Burc Bakkal
- Do you have any other hobbies?
- My key interest is my family. I am raising three children - two sons and a daughter, and I would like to see them more often. But now, unfortunately, I cannot devote much time to my family. I also know three languages, play basketball and tennis.
- How do you feel about charity?
- Together with the Young Businessmen Association of Turkey, we are developing a project called "The World of Unique Gamers". In the spring we organized the FIFA'21 Russia-Turkey esports tournament, and it was greeted with great enthusiasm by the participants. I am sure that it is necessary to develop such events, because in this way we tear off the world not only for children, but for the whole society.