Turhan Özen Leads Turkish Cargo with a Fresh Vision Forward
Traditionally, many airlines have viewed cargo as a supplement of their passenger business, with much of their focus placed squarely on freight optimization of the aircraft and cost reductions. It’s in the airlines very nature to do so, and especially during times when fuel costs are high, tensions are increased as airlines are squeezed even tighter. It’s often during these times when airlines strive for more operational efficiency and cost savings by looking inwards at the processes in place to streamline and automate operations.
For Turkish Cargo and their Chief Cargo Officer, Mr. Turhan Özen, they see things a bit differently. While Mr. Özen values operational efficiency and process improvements, ultimately for airlines that take cargo seriously, more focus needs to be directed towards customer needs and satisfaction. His fresh approach to cargo services stems from his decades of experience working on the other side of the table, as a consumer of air cargo services working in the auto logistics industry and working for 3PLs. His experiences have shaped his business views, and he gives Turkish Cargo a distinct advantage with first-hand experience of what the real needs of clients are and what makes an airline particularly attractive to them.
The Path to Success
“I began my career working in the automotive industry as a sales executive,” said Mr. Özen. “I then went onto work in several sales and marketing positions, and was eventually promoted to a regional manager position. While I was doing this in 1995, the automotive company that I was working for, like so many companies at that times, was in the midst of process reengineering. They decided to integrate warehousing, order & stock management, distribution and IT into one logistics department, which I was appointed manager of. I was given the chance to learn all about the different areas of the supply chain, and this was my first taste of logistics.”
“When I first started, I dealt with a lot of inbound and outbound logistics activities in the automotive company, including spare parts distribution to dealerships throughout Turkey. I worked for about 8 years gaining experience in the whole of supply chain requirements from a logistics perspective, and in 2000 I joined TNT to help establish their presence in Turkey. I was initially heavily involved in contract logistics and was promoted to operations director for TNT, until 2007 when CEVA Logistics acquired the logistics arm of TNT and I continued over at CEVA. I think this was the first global logistics company that had a relatively balanced portfolio between freight and contract logistics. TNT was mostly dealing with contract logistics and CEVA was also focused on freight forwarding at the time, so this was a unique and well-balanced environment.”
“At CEVA, I transitioned over to a commercial role that included freight transportation services, and this was an important but challenging step in my career to learn the air, sea and ground transportation side of the business. By 2014, I was promoted as a global sector leader for pharma and healthcare for CEVA. I continued to be based in Istanbul thanks to its prominent location as a hub between Europe and Asia, and was a big user of Turkish Airlines’ services. In the beginning of 2016 I moved to Dubai as the Regional Managing Director of Middle East and North Africa for CEVA, where I was a fast growing customer for Turkish Cargo, I had the opportunity to meet several times with the Turkish Airlines chairman Mr. Ilker Ayci, to discuss about the air cargo industry and its dynamics. Mr. Ayci wanted someone from outside to take Turkish Cargo to the next level, to make the airline stronger by giving cargo priority, and needed someone who shared in this same vision. I was impressed by this vision and the priority Turkish Airlines placed on cargo, and was convinced to join the organization to help lead Turkish Cargo to become one of the top cargo carriers in the world.”
This breadth of experience working with many players in the industry has translated well into Mr. Özen’s current position. He has brought with him the understanding of the forwarder and customers side of the business to craft solutions that better fit their needs.
“I strongly believe that at Turkish Cargo we play a much more proactive role together with forwarders to create value and develop solutions for end customers. This is a very important change in the mindset for my team at Turkish Cargo, to start to see from the eyes of the final customer. What they are looking for in terms of service and solutions, activity, and responsiveness should be translated directly to the area cargo staff throughout the network.”
We are definitely focusing more on actively communicating innovative solutions when we work with businesses, in turn it positions Turkish Cargo as a preferred pharma air carrier in the market.
Turkish Cargo is also becoming increasingly more focused on special cargo and special solutions; this includes e-commerce, mail, pharma, healthcare, valuables, and several customer specific solutions. This requires more physical investments as well, and as shown at their hub in Istanbul, they are willing to take the steps necessary to make it a success. Last year, Turkish Cargo received IATA CEIV certification at the Istanbul hub, proving the commitment to pharma and healthcare products and storage that’s in line with expectations of pharma manufacturers.
“We are definitely focusing more on actively communicating innovative solutions when we work with businesses, in turn it positions Turkish Cargo as a preferred pharma air carrier in the market. We also want to be recognized for other special cargo and solutions; such as e commerce, high-tech, valuable cargo, perishables, and other temperature sensitive goods. We must take in consideration very specific aspects for each customer, and it takes a skilled employee to custom make solutions that fit to each specific requirement. Our skilled staff make a true difference in the level of service that we can offer.”
Close to Cargo and Customers
Mr. Özen certainly brings an unusual background to airfreight, but the path he’s taken gives him an interesting, unique and valuable perspective into the inner workings of customers’ businesses. By leveraging this advantage, he can better educate and give his team a deep understanding of customer needs. This is a perspective that many other traditional air cargo professionals may not have and ultimately gives Turkish Cargo a distinct advantage in their service offerings.
Mr. Özen explained that it’s important to keep a human touch into the cargo side of the business, and having expertise in place keeps Turkish Cargo one step ahead of the competition.
One of the key elements in being close to customers is to have investments into individuals with specific expertise, with specialties related to the requirements of the sector or customer groups.
“One of the key elements in being close to customers is to have investments into individuals with specific expertise, with specialties related to the requirements of the sector or customer groups. Traditional cargo carriers tend to be more asset based and less focused on the human element. While this is of course still important, I’ve found that if you don’t have a focus on special cargo and services you will struggle to yield enough to really make a feasible and profitable business. You need expertise and specialization in place for customer relations sales and marketing, especially in terms of managing key accounts, operations and cargo. I believe many freight forwarders are very good example of how to do this successfully, in terms of sector and account focused teams and solution design. Investing in individuals and developing a team with specialized product knowledge is core to what we’re looking to achieve, and you can expect Turkish Cargo to continue moving forward in this direction.”
Mr. Özen’s views on investing in all Turkish Cargo staff’s training to better understand not only their clients’ needs, but also the needs of importers, exporters and manufactures comes as a result of his vast experience outside the industry. The understanding of what the end customer truly needs results in higher customer satisfaction, and will continue to differentiate Turkish Cargo from the rest of the pack.