Turkey’s rising retail tech company, Getir, recently hit a valuation of $2.6 billion last month, becoming one of Turkey’s earliest unicorns, a term used to describe startups that pass the $1 billion mark.
Having launched its operations in February 2021 in London, Getir’s co-founder, Tuncay Tutek says he wants to teach the world how to pronounce the two syllabi: Getir (Get-ir), which means “bring/get” in the Turkish language, and to become the Turkish company on “which the sun never sets”.
One of the main functions of its app is to deliver groceries to your doorsteps in just 10 minutes, yes that’s correct. A one of a kind service offered across Turkey.
TRT World interviewed one of the Getir’s co-founders Tuncay Tutek and discussed its story, aspirations and the Turkish startup ecosystem.
TRT World: Before we delve into what made Getir a success story, I'd like to start with the team. How did all the co-founders come together and stay together until this day.
Tuncay Tutek: We don’t get this question often. Thanks for asking. We started as five co-founders. Nazim Salur and Serkan Borancili know each other from Bitaksi, the ride-hailing app where Salur was the founder and Borancili was one of the first investors.
Co-founder Dogancan Dalyan also worked at Bitaksi. Mert Salur is Nazim Salur’s son - he joined the team after he finished his studies in the US.
When Nazim first thought of this idea, he shared it with Borancili. “We deliver cabs in 3 minutes anywhere in the city, why not do the same with groceries in 10 minutes?” he said.
Borancili bought the idea. A week later Nazim and I bumped into each other. I know Nazim through his wife who used to be my colleague. I said “it’s a great idea but very difficult, good luck to you. Let me know if I can be of help with anything.”
A few weeks or days later? He then asked me to join the team. I have been wanting to start my own business after having worked in the corporate world for so many years and having built a family business which is still in operation today.
We started in October 2014, we started working at other people’s offices (renting them), we didn’t have the money to buy an office space. The first warehouse we ever rented was of an old florist, the first team worked there for a while.
How are we still together? What unites us is purpose. The purpose of being a Turkish global company, who is the first at what it does.
We are a group of people who love and trust our country, Turkey. We have great appreciation and respect for the people of this country. It is a source of important for us to take this platform built by Turkish software engineers global, starting in the UK. (Since this interview Getir has opened up an office in Amsterdam.)
Of course, it isn’t a rose garden all the time. We have differences of opinion amongst ourselves from time to time. In those situations, our north star is Getir itself, the purpose of making Getir a global brand. Because our north star didn’t change, we were able to pursue what’s in the best interest of our business.
The second reason is that we didn’t start this company to make money. If our goal was to make money, we would have accepted multiple offers to sell the company. We started this business to be successful. Money eventually follows success. We always aimed for success, and that kept us together up until now.
TW: As the founders you still own 60 percent of the company as far as I know. How did you manage that?
TT: This wasn’t easy. Willpower and having a strong stance in the face of challenges have a lot to do with it. We bit the bullet when we have undervalued offers on the one hand, and challenging circumstances on the other. Our friends and families have always supported us. Our suppliers and partners have always been very understanding.
In return, we never delayed any of our payments even by a day. We continued this business with integrity up until now. If you stand this strong, people understand that they can’t buy your company for cheap.
TW: In one of your interviews, you say that working on the right idea is key to success. In terms of idea, you started Getir at a time when the market wasn’t ready. Turkish customers were not used to ordering groceries online back in 2014. In a way you developed the market as a first-mover. What if late comer players came and captured your market share?
TT: That’s also a good question. I do not call every question a good question, this is a good question indeed. When we first started, the first reaction we got was: “Why deliver in 10 minutes?, what’s the point?”.
In 2014, the average time for grocery delivery was between a day and a week. We reduced that into not hours but minutes. Then they said, “do it in 30 minutes instead of 10”. Delivering within 10 minutes is significant for customers, because 10 minutes means right now. If we can achieve delivering within 10 minutes, we can retain our competitive advantage even when other players come into the play.
First two years were extremely difficult. Smartphone penetration in Turkey was between 60-70 percent in 2015. Currently, it is almost impossible to find anything but smart phones in the market. Getting people to pay through credit card was difficult. People avoided paying upfront with their credit cards. Credit card penetration wasn’t also this high. These are all winds you need to sail against.
What did we do? We saw that early adopters, people who closely follow and easily adapt to technological trends, appreciated our product. It was a critical indicator for us. We believed that the group of people who like and use this service would scale in the future.
When Apple produced touch screen phones for the first time, it was a first in its category. However due to the strong loyalty of early adopters, it dominates the market today.
Similarly, Getir was a product ahead of its time, but we heavily invested in marketing. All it takes was to get people to try and experience 10 minute delivery for the first time. After that, it becomes a habit. We changed that consumer habit with creative advertisement campaigns.
TW: You built the market along with your customer base?
TT: Indeed. We invented the concept of within 10 minute delivery in the world. Sometimes I get the question of how delivering within 10 minutes is an invention. This is a totally different concept than digital supermarkets delivering during given slots on the same day or the day after. We started with the end goal of providing the service to the customer within 10 minutes, worked backwards from there to architect our software infrastructure as well as operations.
TW: Ten minutes is a huge value proposition, but you have giant competitors in London, and we also know that operation costs are a lot higher in Europe, because salaries of operational staff are higher. Do you think this competitive advantage will be sufficient abroad?
TT: Our competitive edge there is that we originated this concept and we have six years of experience. There are some other companies who are trying to position themselves around 10 minute delivery, they have been around for three four months. Our competitors also use the phrase “To Do it Like Getir”.
We have around 400 warehouses in Turkey and 20 in London as of today and we serve millions of customers. It’s not the same as managing a handful of warehouses and thousands of customers.
Getir was founded as a tech company and we have also accumulated a vast amount of data which through machine learning technology automates various processes in the company: from customer segmentation to predicting the demand and where to open the warehouses. By combining our learning in Turkey and in the UK, we are expanding into Germany, Netherlands and France.
TW: Who are your competitors in Europe?
TT: There are companies like Gorillas and Dija who position themselves around a 10 minute delivery value proposition. Speaking of competition with other big delivery companies, people continue to use delivery services with time slots for their planned shopping, and will use us for their top-up shopping, and once they experience within 10 minute delivery, they become our recurring customers.
We now have tens of thousands of customers in London and sometimes I see the same customers ordering deliveries 10-20 times with us. Londoners got used to us very rapidly. We will be competing with other firms with our technology, speed and the value proposition we built: fast delivery and happy customers.
TW: A lot of times, startups are advised to focus on an area where they have a competitive advantage. When I look into your story, all the founders bring a competitive edge to the table. You have deep expertise in retail, Nazim Salur brought his expertise from Bitaksi, within 3 minutes ride hailing app.
TT: Surely. Also Serkan Borancili as the founder of gittigidiyor and investor in Bitaksi (one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in Turkey, acquired by Ebay). He joined the team both as a founder as well as an investor. He was one of our biggest investors.
Nazim and I, we invested all we had in this business but we didn’t have that much to invest. Mert brought in his dynamism and his extrovert personality, and Dogan, his state of the art software development skills with which we built our system architecture.
I think we also continued to build ourselves up along with the company. We continuously read and learned new stuff and took risks, that’s how we developed our competitive advantage as we managed the company.
TW: You also mentioned earlier that a vast majority of startup founders are in their twenties and thirties, but research reveals that the most successful startup founders are in their forties. I see a trade off between experience and energy here. As an experienced entrepreneur how do you motivate yourself and stay energised?
TT: We work day and night and now that we started global expansion, we are managing operations across different time zones. Last night at 11 PM, we had a shooting for our marketing campaign in London. We are trying to create a company on which the sun never sets. It’s tiring. I have two kids. When I run out of energy at the end of the day, they still are full of energy. They are my source of energy when I get stressed out and drained at work.
Success at work is a big source of motivation for us. Our motivation levels are very high because we launched our global operations. We also get a lot of compliments, which increase our responsibility along with our motivation.
As I mentioned earlier, our north star, building a global brand out of Turkey is the biggest source of motivation for us. That’s also a team work. The energy of our team is also very high. When we say enough, sometimes our team pushes us. They always aim high. When you see people working this hard for the company you built, that’s a different motivation.
Our latest valuation is $2.6 billion. Physical assets of the company amount to no more than $10 million. What drives the valuation is Getir’s intellectual property built by our team. People’s energy is what makes this enterprise valuable. Not only our energy. The energy of tens of thousands of people involved in Getir’s ecosystem.
TW: As we are concluding, what advice do you have for startup founders?
TT: Everybody has ideas, what matters is execution. The capacity to execute, financial strength, experience and patience are all very important. We need more people in the technology space. I suggest they go after inefficiencies and solve them with technology. That creates enormous value.
TW: Thank you, that was a very inspirational interview.
TT: Thank you as well.