Sabanci's American Dream

Most Turkish companies entered the American market during the second half of the 1980’s. During Turgut Ozal’s presidency, companies started to compete with each other to expand into international markets. Sabanci Holding, one of the largest conglomerates in Turkey, with a total sales of $7.3 in 2002, established its first US presence in 1980.
The corporation, which was established under the name Holsa, has been successful in a number of projects; however, its performance has not yet reflected what Sabanci Holding is capable of back in Turkey. Holsa did the marketing for the Group’s products.
Huseyin Unver, the head of Sabanci's operations in America.

Besides Holsa, Yunsa and Bossa, two major textile companies operating as part of the Holding, have been selling such products as apparel, fabric for shirts, and denim to US markets through agencies. Holsa also imported fiber and nylon-fiber yarn from Sasa and Insa, which operate under Sabanci, and sold them to US markets.

Both Bossa, established in 1951 in Adana, which owns an integrated complex with the capability to work on textile techniques such as yarn, painting, finishing and printing, and Yunsa, which manufactures  fabric for men’s and women’s apparel, began their operations with their own offices. In 2003, Bossa-Yunsa moved to a new office located in Midtown Manhattan on 40th Street, and was incorporated as a part of Holsa. Today Holsa has come up with another innovation.  As of November, the name of the company was changed to Exsa Americas.

Huseyin Unver, who is the head of Sabanci’s operations in America, has great business experience. Unver, who originally came from a finance background, served as the representative of Is Bank in New York City. He started his career at Irving Trust (its name has since been changed to the Bank of New York) and subsequently served as the director of various financial corporations. Huseyin Unver, the General Manager of Exsa, states that their target is to give momentum to the US operations and pull up its trade volume close to the performance of Sabanci Group in Turkey, which had a turnover of $25 billion last year. Exsa has another project in store for 2005, selling products though its main Turkish corporation, GidaSa, in the United States.

Sabanci Group started to seek new opportunities in foreign markets after acquiring Piyale, a company producing well-known brands of pasta, flour, soup and semolina. Now they are trying to find ways to establish a retail chain in the US with the aid of Exsa Americas. Unver says, “We settled our numerical target into our budget regarding the sales of our products in the food industry in 2005.”   

There are currently 12 employees working under the roof of Exsa Americas. This number is expected to increase to 19 by the end of 2005. Exsa is willing to do marketing not only for their products but also for third party products. To the question,“Why did they wait over 20 years to focus on the operations of Holsa, which was established back in 1980?” Unver answers, “It doesn’t mean that we haven’t done anything in the market. Various products have been marketed in different time periods and the company operated in accordance with its mission and now we want to give momentum to these efforts.”

Bossa and Yunsa are selling their products to well-known companies in the US market, such as Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, GAP, Old Navy and Liz Claiborne. Mr. Unver states that there is no reason to create disaster scenarios about the effects of China on the textile trade after the quotas are lifted in 2005. China already has a large market share in many product categories. “Asian countries will get in trouble because of China,” says Mr. Unver. He describes his switch to textiles after a long career in finance, in the words of one of his friends: “There is no end to learning and weaving”.

Huseyin Unver studied at the Middle Eastern Technical University, Department of Geology Engineering. He worked as an interpreter for a number of university lecturers, who were archeologists and anthropologists and came from either the United States or Canada to the Konya region to conduct excavations, and this opportunity opened the door for him to the US.  Unver, who wanted to keep himself away from the increasing political turmoil in Turkey, moved to New York during his third year in college in 1971, because he was influenced by the lecturers whom he met during the excavations. With the help of a relative who was teaching at New York University, he started studying Economics at Baruch College. He also received his MBA degree from the same school. He started his career as a clerk in the department of foreign relations of Irving Trust, whose name was afterwards changed to the Bank of New York.

He passed the exam in order to be a senior manager within the company and he joined the senior management team. Irving Trust, which has a strong international network, wanted to open up a bank in Turkey and Unver was assigned to the position. At that time Yasar Group was the biggest corporation in Izmir and owned Tutun Bank. Irving Trust signed a partnership agreement with them and acquired 40% of Tutun Bank’s shares. Unver was assigned to be the general manager of Tutun Bank with the approval of both partners. After four years of service in Turkey, Unver came to New York in 1989 and started managing the Park Avenue Bank which was recently acquired by Erol Aksoy. Unver, who served at the bank until 1996 as the manager, became the representative of Is Bank in New York. After the representative office closed down, he was transferred to Sabanci Group. Mr. Unver is married and he has one child.          

(December 2004, Issue 15th)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07