|Selcuk Alperen Turns Made in China to Sell in China|
|Foreigners in China|
Now, leading the garment manufacturing kingdom with an annual production of 10 million pieces, Selcuk says his China dream has just begun as the smart businessman sets his sights on the consumer market of the world's 2nd biggest economy.
Wearing colorful clothes and a humble smile, Selcuk Alperen has made quite an impression on the global fashion industry and the Chinese market. As CEO and Chairman of Guangzhou Weibo Company, a worldwide merchandising production organization under Munich-based Insight Group, Selcuk's wealth of experience and impeccable timing is currently establishing the biggest Turkish clothing chains in China.
KIGILI, named after its founder Abdullah Kiğılı, is a leading clothing brand in Turkey. It was established in 1938 and became part of the Insight Group in 1995. With its first flagship store in China opened in Zhujiang New Town on August 2, 2013, the European brand is debuting a range of high-end menswear and accessories, promoting ‘elegant, comfortable, successful and dynamic styles' affordable and suited for the Chinese. Foreseeing the potential here in Guangzhou, Selcuk has spent the last nine years turning his China dream into a reality: "Our goal is to open 1,000 stores across the country over the next five years."
Taking the helm of Guangzhou Weibo, Selcuk and his Chinese partner, Chengxi Zheng, Weibo's General Manager, began building a professional relationship in the late 1990s and this good partnership led to the founding of Weibo in 2005, "We have a very good connection with the Chinese people," says the Turkish gentleman, and he also explains the reason for settling down here in Guangzhou: "We have always felt that our home country of Turkey is the bridge between Europe and Asia. With Guangzhou being near Hong Kong, we could see the prospect for designer garment sales."
Selcuk, 41, entered the textile industry at the young age of sixteen. He was born into the family business in Kars, East Turkey and studied textile engineering at Uludag University where he graduated in 1992. Even during his education, he continued working to develop his credentials. His career has kept him at the top of his game, holding CEO positions with the Insight Fashion Team and Best Fashion Team since 1999. Even though he rose to be in charge of the headquarters in Munich, Germany, his true ambition has always been the KIGILI brand.
"KIGILI has been around since 1938 and targets 25-40 year old men's fashion. Originally we were into import and export, but then we produced our own design. We now make around ten million products a year. Unlike others, KIGILI is our complete brand – from collection, to sampling, to production and marketing," Selcuk says.
As a businessman, Selcuk is as ironed as his shirts. He is a walking statement of his brand, wearing only the sleekest, most colorful KIGILI clothing. His attention to detail paired with his De Niro charm has made Selcuk a great success. As a boss, his roots have created a compassionate but assertive management system that is understanding but earnest. He locks away an honest admiration of those with smaller positions within the company, because they're all driven by the same goal. As an individual, he is a quiet family man who enjoys life with his German wife and four-year-old daughter.
Selcuk believes that Turkey and China share common qualities in their culture: "We treat our families in a similar way and have the same structure. We respect our elders. We are also very hospitable towards other people, especially foreigners. We feel here like we are at home."
"We have a lot of respect for the Chinese people and their traditions. I never have to worry about traveling within China as I feel safe," he adds.
He has always known that the company would expand to Guangzhou first: "Beijing is the political capital, Shanghai is finance and Guangzhou is the center of trade. We were always going to come here and are very comfortable here."
Settling in Guangzhou since 2004, Selcuk has seen the market ebb and flow as the global financial crisis ripples into Asia, and this year China is expected to record the lowest annual GDP growth (7.5%) in two decades. With this in mind, he is not worried as his roots have taught him: "We always prepare for this situation. It can happen any time. The Turkish way is to be very flexible."
Flexibility also led to the opening of a factory in Cambodia in 2009 to counter the rise in Chinese labor costs as he says "It's not just labor costs, but natural to move manufacturing. In one day in Cambodia, we can produce 15,000 shirts and 30,000 pants. Whereas other companies may replace the factories they use, Guangzhou Weibo sources such unique collections, that it can't be changed. This ensures quality clothing with all two million reels of fabric every year."
Overlooking six factories in China and Cambodia, Weibo has a wide range of products including shirts, suits, jackets. As one of the main producers for fashion big names like Tommy Hilfiger, Massimo Dutti, Barutti, and Saks 5th Avenue, the company boosts an annual production of 10 million pieces each year.
Selcuk may appear to be a risk taker, but as he makes clear, everyone has to be in this current climate: "No matter how good you do something, you sometimes need luck. Great decisions today are not necessarily great decisions tomorrow. We are pushing a European brand and the world is one market. We have to understand there are 1.3 billion customers in China."
"Local Cantonese people are becoming more international. Shopping malls are opening everywhere, there's more entertainment and more nightlife." Unfortunately for Selcuk, his own social time is taken up by the business: "I just keep fit at the gym and in my leisure time I am in the shopping malls checking the competition. When my family is here, things are different."
Enigmatic engineering will most surely lead to success for Selcuk, but one thing is for certain, his China experience leaves him with an appetite for his future here: "I have a special feeling here in Guangzhou, something you can't explain. If you have this in a foreign country, you must hold onto it," he says with a smile.