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Rise of the Anatolian Tigers
27 August 2014
A group of small family businesses centres have become major international players that now present an opportunity for investors, finds Nicholas Clayton
Over the past three decades, Turkey has watched the Anatolian
Tigers grow from small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
entrepreneurs in the Turkish interior to conglomerates on the
country’s top company lists.
Although these business leaders have traditionally been cool to
the idea of foreign partnerships, analysts say the new
generation of Anatolian Tigers has global ambitions that
present lucrative opportunities for investors.
The term Anatolian Tiger first emerged in the 1980s as
entrepreneurs from Turkey’s conservative and
underdeveloped heartland began taking advantage of the
country’s liberalisation agenda to expand their
businesses aggressively into companies with thousands of
"Today the profile of an Anatolian Tiger company is a
hard-working, family-based manufacturing firm," says
Istanbul-based business intelligence specialist Gokay
During the first half of the 20th century, much of the
industrial activity in central Anatolia was focused on
textiles, but, as globalisation drove up competition in the
sector, the industrial activity shifted to consumer goods and
secondary products feeding other Turkish industries.
However, some signature Anatolian Tiger companies remained in
textiles, with Taha Textile being one of the
sector’s most notable successes. Founded by three
families in 1988, it signed a lucrative agreement to supply
fabric to French clothing company LC Waikiki that same year. It
grew so rapidly in the years that followed that it bought out
LC Waikiki in 1997, thus making it a completely Turkish brand.
In 2005, the European Stability Initiative released a report
describing the Anatolian Tigers as "Islamic Calvinists" which
had succeeded based on a mentality of selfreliance, thrift and
reinvestment of profits. However, these qualities have made
Anatolian Tiger companies traditionally less accessible to
Mehmet Gun, founding partner of Istanbul-based law firm Mehmet
Gun & Partners, says foreign investors looking to partner
Anatolian Tiger companies should be aware that cultural
differences will present a number of challenges when
negotiating a deal.
To begin with, the family-run enterprises that typify the
Anatolian Tiger model tend not to be interested in selling
stakes to strategic investors, but are open to the idea of
joint ventures with foreign companies, according to Gun. But,
given that many of these companies continue to be led by the
entrepreneurs that built them from the ground up, they also
tend to require significantly more persuasion concerning how a
foreign partner can help move things forward, he says.
Nonetheless, after prospering under a booming Turkish economy
in the 2000s, the Anatolian Tigers have acquired global
ambitions that require close cooperation with foreign
This is also in part due to a generational shift. Whereas
families in central Turkey faced a lack of educational
opportunities when the Tiger movement began, many of the
children of the first Anatolian Tiger entrepreneurs have now
studied at elite business schools across the western world.
As they have returned to take up the reins on the boards of
their family companies, Turanlioglu says they have brought
global vision and western business practices with them.
Gun says they are now increasingly looking for opportunities
for global expansion, and provide unique opportunities for
foreign firms seeking a partner to help them penetrate
difficult markets in the former Soviet Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS), the Middle East and Africa, Gun said.