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Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MUSIAD) contributes to the defence and aerospace industry with the activities of its member corporations and organising events like the recent Military Radar + Border Security Summit (MRBS). Fatih Altunbaş was appointed as the President of MUSIAD Defence Sector Board recently, and in this interview, he explained the new organisation of MUSIAD for defence sector, how MRBS was organised and the future of MUSIAD and MRBS in the industry for MSI TDR readers.
We will be further developing what we do for defence industry and expanding it to the whole Turkey. The first thing we will do is determining all the companies in our 60,000 registered companies that contribute to the defence industry and then bringing them all together under MUSIAD Defence Sector Board.
MSI TDR: Mr. Altunbaş, you were elected to the Executive Board of MUSIAD as a deputy member. However, in some sources, we see your name with the title “Member of Executive Board of MUSIAD”. Furthermore, we know there has been a change in your post of President of MUSIAD Defence Sector Board. Can you please inform us about your duties in MUSIAD?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: I am a Deputy Member of MUSIAD Executive Board. However, in MUSIAD we have a constructive mechanism that allows decisions to be taken with a much wider participation: Extended Executive Board. All full members, deputy members, and full and deputy members of board of auditors comprise this Extended Executive Board. The Extended Executive Board meetings follow the Ordinary Executive Board meetings, and thus the extended board meets twice a month.
My full membership in the Executive Board of MUSIAD Ankara Branch is still ongoing. However, I’m passing on my duty of President of MUSIAD Ankara Defence Sector Board. It has been decided to organise a Defence Sector Board for all MUSIAD, not just Ankara, and I have been appointed to preside over this new board.
We divide our efforts to various projects. One of the important projects we plan to do is organising events regarding topics and themes that haven’t been really in the limelight before. MRBS was such an event we organised as MUSIAD Ankara. Before it, no such event for military radar and border security issues was organised. In our agenda, similar projects are abundant.
MSI TDR: Can we get more details about the process of organising MUSIAD Defence Sector Board?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: The first such board was organised within the Ankara branch of MUSIAD, back in 2017. Before it, there wasn’t an organisation for defence industry within MUSIAD. As for the question, “Why Ankara?”, the organisation was centred there as Ankara is the capital for Turkish defence industry as well. The board commenced work immediately and made great accomplishments. In 2018, we organised the first MRBS. In early 2019, we created a “Defence Industry Committee” in Istanbul under Head Office; however, the pandemic prevented this committee from completely accomplishing the tasks we had planned for it.
The new management after the Ordinary Assembly of the Board of MUSIAD commenced works to redouble the efforts for the defence industry within MUSIAD as a whole. It has been decided to dismiss the Defence Industry Committee and establish a MUSIAD Defence Sector Board for the whole organisation, to coordinate all the efforts for the defence industry. The new management asked me to assume the positions of Deputy Member of MUSIAD Executive Board and President of MUSIAD Defence Sector Board and I have accepted these with pride.
One does not have to be in the Executive Board of MUSIAD in order to head a sector board in MUSIAD. However, it does help with following the latest developments and trends about your sector. My new posts will lead to the best possible representation of the defence sector in MUSIAD’s decision mechanisms.
The members of the MÜSİAD Defence Sector Board have been already determined. Sub-appointments such as Executive Board, Deputy Chairmen and Deputy Members are ongoing.
MSI TDR: You are talking about a “Defence Sector Board”. However, the sector usually adds the words “aerospace” and “security” to “defence”. Do “aerospace” and “security” have a separate place within MUSIAD’s organisation?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: Within MUSIAD, there were some arguments about including “aerospace”, a concept with a strong civilian side, alongside “defence”. However, it has been decided to only use defence, as the military aerospace applications are under the “defence” concept already. Thus, we do not concern ourselves in the Defence Sector Board with civilian aerospace topics. I can safely say solely using “defence” was deliberate.
The Projects of MUSIAD Defence Sector Board Are Ready
MSI TDR: What difference will it make to consider the activities regarding defence industry under MUSIAD’s Head Office compared to only Ankara branch?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: The difference can be easily seen in member numbers. MUSIAD Ankara Branch has 500 members; however, MUSIAD as a whole has around 11,000. When we consider some members may own multiple companies, the total company numbers are around 60,000. MUSIAD has 86 branches in Turkey and 40 abroad. Furthermore, in addition to foreign branches, the organisation also has offices in 40 countries. Thus, MUSIAD is one of the largest business organisations in the entire world, and both the expectations and capabilities are now much bigger.
We decided to limit every company to 25 square metres in MRBS. In other events, even if you pay quite a bit to get a 100 square metre booth, a larger company can just have a 1000 square metre one right next to you. We wanted to create an equality of opportunity when we decided to implement this limit.
MSI TDR: What priority topics will be in MUSIAD Defence Sector Board’s agenda; can you give us some insight?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: We continue our efforts to do great things to match MUSIAD’s prominence. We will be further developing what we do for defence industry and expanding it to the whole Turkey. The first thing we will do is determining all the companies that contribute to the defence industry and then bringing them all together under MUSIAD Defence Sector Board. For example, we have members that are active in arms sector in our Konya and Seydişehir/Beyşehir branches, and our members are among the partners of ASELSAN Konya.
We divide our efforts to various projects. One of the important projects we plan to do is organising events regarding topics and themes that haven’t been really in the limelight before. MRBS was such an event we organised as MUSIAD Ankara. Before it, no such event for military radar and border security issues was organised. We plan to organise events like it for various topics that will contribute to both MUSIAD members and defence industry as a whole.
We also plan to bring a new viewpoint to our High-Tech Port by MUSIAD event, and the event will be held under MUSIAD EXPO, as in the past.
Another project we have is about reducing academic education deficiency in the defence sector. In OSTİM Technical University, an Arms Industry Technician program was announced after a process we brought up and supported. The program is a first in Turkey, and we think programs like this should be created for every aspect of the defence industry. How to design defence systems and what to focus on when designing them? The people who know the answers to questions like these learned them from their predecessors. However, there should be an institutional education for learning process, including training new academics for various fields, and setting up new professorships. We also want these organisations to spread all across Turkey, not just stay local in Ankara.
We also have a few other projects in our agenda, to be executed in the near future. In time new projects will also be added, and we will share them as they mature.
MSI TDR: How you will find the resources for the projects you mentioned, including time and money?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: We have a professional secretariat of our board in the head office in Istanbul. We plan to reinforce it, considering the scale of our projects, with more personnel. We aim for a four-fold increase in size. Our members of the board are volunteers themselves to spend time and effort for our projects as well. We never had a problem with the budget within MUSIAD. The three MRBS events, organised by Ankara Branch, prove that.
MRBS Made a Difference with Its Principles
MSI TDR: Mr. Altunbaş, we would like to ask you about MRBS after your insights on the new organisation regarding the sector within MUSIAD. What made MRBS exist at all? How was it developed?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: Recently, in our sector, events were held similar in size and scope to our MRBS, but most of them did not have a second or third showing. How did MRBS succeed where the others failed? One of the factors is that it was organised and owned by MUSIAD Ankara. MUSIAD Ankara is a non-profit non-governmental organisation (NGO) and thus, it does not expect to make a profit from MRBS. All the income generated by the MRBS is spent for MRBS. As such, attending MRBS was cost-effective for the companies. We observe that prices go up badly in for-profit events, especially when the first event was reasonably successful.
Another factor is high ranking officials being drawn to MRBS through MUSIAD Ankara. The officials know that they contribute to an NGO when they attend an event like this. The broad participation of such officials makes the event extra fruitful for companies.
The third factor is our principles we held true since the first organisation. One of these was having a national event for the start. We did not want to have an international event from the get-go, as we knew our attendants had to market themselves before competing in the international stage for defence and border security. We saw how right this decision was as well. We held the first two events nationally and thanks to them, awareness was created regarding our companies and their capabilities within MRBS’ scope. When we were ready, we held the 3rd event internationally.
Another principle was limiting the booths to a set area. The first MRBS event was held in an area of 800 square metres. When we consider the low price for a square metre, the whole event area could be sold to one company. However, we decided to limit every company to 25 square metres. In other events, even if you pay quite a bit to get a 100 square metre booth, a larger company can just have a 1000 square metre one right next to you. We wanted to create an equality of opportunity when we decided to implement this limit. We cannot put smaller companies in the limelight without a regulation like this.
The fourth factor might be considered as this: we determined every detail about the event with the expectations of the private companies in mind. Every member of MUSIAD Ankara’s event committee owns his/her companies and attends events and fairs like this worldwide regularly. We too, have expectations from the events. For example, when you attend a fair abroad, details like accommodation, transport and setting up your booth are always on your mind. As such, we empathise with the people who are coming from abroad and we set every process with that in mind. We do our best to not repeat the bad experiences we had in other countries in our event. We know that if a foreign person can attend the fair easily, a Turkish person can attend it much easier. MRBS was always an event easily attended by the visitors and companies.
MSI TDR: Mr. Altunbaş, can you explain your role in the MRBS organisation?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: As the President of MUSIAD Defence Sector Board and Member of Executive Board of MUSIAD Ankara Branch, I was the head of organisation committee of MRBS from day one. I mentioned MUSIAD Ankara did not expect a profit from this event. So, we did our duties as volunteers, with passion. On the other hand, Turac, the company I’m the General Manager of, attended all three events after going through the same processes as everyone else, and the events were very satisfactory for Turac.
Some of our main contractor companies sometimes may not let their sub-contractors to attend events like MRBS and showcase their own products. When we asked some companies about their non-participation in MRBS, we sadly learned that this is an ongoing problem. However, we have plenty of SMEs that we desire to present themselves to the world. In the next MRBS, we will be expecting the organisational committee to intervene, and we will be supporting them from the head office.
MSI TDR: What would you like to say about MRBS’ success?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: The development of the MRBS gives a great insight of the event’s success. The first event in 2018, 30 companies and 672 visitors attended it, and the total area we used was 800 square metres. In 2019, all these numbers increased, to 60 companies, 1,074 visitors and 1,200 square metres. These events were held in a hotel, but we held the last event in collaboration with Hacettepe University, within their campus. The metrics I mentioned continued to increase as well, to 71 companies, 2,400 square metres and 1,476 visitors.
The attention the visitors show to our event shows our success as well. After the first event, half the companies wanted to reserve a place in the second one. After the second event, we were receiving demands to hold the third one next year. Some companies even told us that they were attending large events, yet they could not be as visible in those events compared to MRBS. In MRBS, they were able to draw attention from decision-makers and inform them about their products and capabilities. They even wanted us to hold the event every six months! Of course, the preparations alone take six months, so we cannot do that. We were strengthened with all the positive feedback, of course.
MSI TDR: How will your new duties in MUSIAD Head Office will affect your activities regarding MRBS? Will you continue your duties in the MRBS Organisational Committee?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: MRBS will continue to be organised by MUSIAD Ankara. My new duties in MUSIAD Head Office will have me pass on my duties in the MRBS Organisational Committee, however, all the organisation and management of defence related events will be under the responsibility of the board I preside over. As such, my bond with MRBS will be carried to a higher place.
MSI TDR: What do you think about MRBS’ future? How will your transfer to the head office affect the event’s future?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: I consider the future of MRBS to be bright. We will support the event from the head office very effectively. Even though we will manage the efforts regarding the defence sector from Istanbul, we foresee MRBS will continue to be organised in Ankara.
Of course, MRBS can be improved in many ways. We aimed MRBS to be an event that includes attendants like FRONTEX and European academics working on border security concepts. Turkey is very crucial for the European Union’s border defence and MRBS may be an event that includes important discussions regarding that. As such, I hope to see FRONTEX and European academics in MRBS in the following years and I believe the organisation committee will succeed in this aim.
I would like to highlight this: Some of our main contractor companies sometimes may not let their sub-contractors to attend events like MRBS and showcase their own products. When we asked some companies about their non-participation in MRBS, we sadly learned that this is an ongoing problem. However, we have plenty of SMEs that we desire to present themselves to the world. In the next MRBS, we will be expecting the organisational committee to intervene, and we will be supporting them from the head office.
MSI TDR: Any further topics you would like to add?
Fatih ALTUNBAŞ: In the official records, 30 MUSIAD members declared themselves as contributing to the defence industry. On the other hand, we know many more from our 11,000 members contribute to the defence sector. Some of our members file their largest companies in our register; however, some of their smaller companies may contribute to the defence industry. As such, we will be determining which members contribute to the defence industry one way or the other and we will make MUSIAD achieve its rightful place within the defence industry.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Fatih Altunbaş, President of MUSIAD Defence Sector Board, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.