One – on – One…Adnan Polat
September 1st, 2006

By Jeffrey Steele

September-October 2006

As president of the Turkish Ceramics Federation, Adnan Polat was not only the host of CTDA’s recent trade mission to Istanbul , but he has been the driving force behind the growing presence of Turkish ceramics in the world marketplace. It’s important to remember that the Turkish ceramic tradition began 8,000 years ago on Anatolian soil. However, its industrial growth which began in the second half of the 20th century has become even more focused in the last fifteen years. Today Turkey produces more than 180 million sqm of ceramic tile, making it the fifth leading ceramic tile producer in the world and third largest in Europe . Turkey ’s ceramic tile production represents 3.5 % of world production and 11% of European production. Since most of the country’s production was started after 1990, its plants are technologically up-to-date. The combination of technology and tradition has made Turkey a growing influence in the industry.

TileDealer recently spoke with Mr. Polat to get this thoughts not only on the trade mission, but on the worldwide role of Turkish tile.

TileDealer: What is the Turkish Ceramic Federation?

Polat: The Ceramic and Refractory Manufacturers Association was founded in 1986 to bring together the manufacturers in the Turkish ceramic industry. It reorganized in 1996 into four individual associations reflecting the interests, problems, and lines of business of the sub-sectors under the roof of the Association. The new sub sectors are SERKAP, Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association; SERSA, Ceramic Sanitary Ware Manufacturers Association; SEREF, Ceramic and Refractory Manufacturers Association; and SERHAM, Ceramic Raw Material Manufacturers Association.

In accordance with the resolutions adopted by the Board of Directors of the Associations in 2001, initiatives were taken for the foundation of the Ceramic Federation which would bring these four associations and other organizations in the sector under a single roof. At the end of 2002, with the participation of the Trade Association for Sanitary Ware and Building Suppliers (TIMDER), these leading organizations representing the ceramic refractory and raw material manufacturers joined under a roof. After bureaucratic paperwork was completed, the Turkish Ceramic Association also joined the Federation; thus, in addition to manufacturers and dealers which comprise sales channels, scientists and ceramic fine artists also took part in the Federation.

The Ceramic Federation, which represents the sector with all its branches, has major influence regarding the development of the sector and elimination of common problems and satisfaction of needs.

Efforts directed towards the promotion of Turkish ceramics, financed through a fund created voluntarily by the members of SERKAP and SERSA, and pursued with the support of the Under Secretariat of International Trade and Central Anatolia Exporters Union (OAIB) are gaining each year. The Turkish ceramic sector is mentioned more and more in local and foreign media led by trade magazines. The whole sector is represented in domestic and international trade fairs alongside magazine ads, catalogs, CDs, the Internet and multivision efforts.

UNICERA Ceramic and Bathroom Fair, which is held in Istanbul in April since 1988, has gained influence. Starting in 2002, SERKAP and SERSA took an active part in the organization. The aim is to make the trade fair, which was rather a local fair previously, an international trade fair with major trade potential where significant ceramic buyers and sellers of the Middle East , Central Asia and the Balkans come together. UNICERA Fair would become the most important ceramic trade fair of the region.

In short, the Federation seeks to achieve a synergy regarding the strengthening of the image of Turkish ceramic manufacturers who have attained major success in exports, in international markets through the organizations and promotional activities carried out locally and abroad.

TileDealer: Can you explain what your role is in the Turkish Ceramic Federation and how you achieved the position you currently have?

Polat: I am the president of the Turkish Ceramics Federation. My role is to maintain the joint interests of the manufacturers, dealers, scientists and artists existing in the Turkish ceramics sector. I was head of the Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association until the Federation was founded in 2002. Upon the foundation of the Turkish Ceramic Federation, I was elected as the president by unanimous vote of all the Ceramic Associations.

TileDealer: How did you first learn about the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association?

Polat: My company, EGE SERAMIK America Inc. was founded in 1991 in the USA and one of the first things we did was to search for such an organization in the USA and become a member of it. I am proud to say that we were the first Turkish company to be an associate member as a ceramic tile manufacturer and amongst the very first foreign manufacturers which joined and supported CTDA.

TileDealer: What made you decide to just “invite the CTDA” to Turkey ?

Polat: The USA is one of our targeted markets. Turkish tile manufacturers have been in the USA market for many years. Turkish tiles are accepted and approved by the American people. Turkish tile producers are searching the USA tile market continuously and trying to catch the likes and dislikes of the American consumers about the ceramic tiles. Members of the CTDA are our friends, and we have had established very fruitful and very friendly relations with them.

Besides, Turkey and the USA are two friendly countries. We wanted to host our American friends for a few days in our country and to introduce them our cultural, historical and social behaviors. Let them taste our food, walk around the Bosporus , see the historical monuments coming back from the Byzantine.

Most of the CTDA members were not knowledgeable about the plants of their Turkish suppliers. We wanted them to come and see with their own eyes how large the manufacturing facilities are in Turkey and how wonderful they are.

TileDealer: What was the response among the Turkish ceramic manufacturers to this proposal?

Polat: They found it a very good idea and they accepted it immediately without any hesitation.

TileDealer: Everyone agrees that the trade mission was a wonderful experience and even those who were unable to attend will undoubtedly benefit from the friendships and business alliances it helped to forge. What do you see as the next step in growing the business between our two countries?

Polat: We leave the next step to our American friends who will take it toward us. They have seen our culture, our way of doing business, our friendship, our production facilities and our products in full detail. Now they are free to stimulate the trade transactions between our two countries. We hope our business will grow and will give fruits to both parties.

TileDealer: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to doing business with the US?

Polat: The very first obstacle of doing business with the USA , from my company’s view, is the lack of knowledge and/or misconceptions of American consumers about Turkish Ceramics and Turkey . Of course the effect of current oil prices on freight costs due to the very big distance between Turkey and the USA seems to be another obstacle. And one should not forget that since the USA is the largest growing ceramic tile market in the world, close to 1500 companies are competing for a share of the market. Although this is not a very big obstacle for EGE SERAMIK, it is a challenge for us to be one of the leading suppliers to the USA among our peers in the world

TileDealer: What do you see as the biggest challenges to the Turkish ceramic industry?

Polat: The Turkish ceramic industry has many challenges. Ceramic tiles are heavy commodities and need fast and cheap transportation. Ceramic tile manufacturing is a heavy energy consuming industry. We need more efficient and low cost energy supplies. The cost structures of the European countries are more or less like ours. But some developing countries such as India , Iran , UAE and Mexico may challenge the Turkish ceramics industry if they overcome the above facts.

TileDealer: More than 10,000 ceramic tile dealers read TileDealer every issue. What would you like them to know about Turkish ceramic tile?

Polat: I want the readers of TileDealer Magazine to be sure that Turkish ceramic tiles are the best in the USA regarding quality, fashion, durability and cost. I want them to know that Turkish tile producers are staying behind their products in all aspects and wishing to offer them a good deal.

Special thanks to Mr. Kuthan Gunay for his help in facilitating this interview.


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