Ensuring gender parity in economic and political participation will continue to remain an ominous challenge as societies around the world, be they developed or developing, are still struggling to provide accommodating conditions for further inclusion of women. Yet, in a global context where the biggest concern has become to create stronger and more sustainable economies of the future, women will have a leading role, remarked Hanzade Doğan Boyner, the chairperson of Turkish e-commerce company Hepsiburada.
Not restricted by any geographical distribution, gender inequality in the workplace or in the corridors of political powerhouses is a prevailing issue since women take far fewer roles in decision-making processes. In a recent report on Gender Parity, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that it will take 257 years for women to achieve full equality in economic participation while the political gender gap will be closed in 95 years. Despite various reasons for the economic gender gap, the report highlighted low numbers of women in managerial positions, wage stagnation, labor force participation and income.
Presenting another perspective on the challenges women face while participating in the labor force, Boyner emphasized, in an exclusive interview with Daily Sabah, that women face educational or cultural barriers when entering the workforce and encounter issues ranging from child and elderly care responsibilities to various widely accepted customs that generally discourage women from working.
The WEF report also underscored that women's participation in the wider labor market has stalled and financial disparities are increasing. Globally, the trend is toward a deteriorating picture in emerging and developing economies, which is offsetting the gains made in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
In a bid to emphasize the wider impacts of women's economic empowerment, Boyner said, "It is important for people to understand that supporting women's economic empowerment is not only good for women; it is good for families and good for the economy."
In reference to the recent evidence reported by the global governance institutions and consultancy firms and speaking from her own experience at Hepsiburada, Boyner indicated that the evidence makes the economic imperative for investing in women clear from the standpoint of performance, innovation, and growth, as women bring unique and significant added value. "Thus," she added, "the contribution of women in the face of a rapidly changing global economy is critical."
"At Hepsiburada, we believe that strong and sustainable economies of the future can only be achieved when women have a leading role in them," the chairperson remarked.
With a strong belief in the necessity to include more women in the workplace and facilitate women's economic empowerment, Boyner spearheaded a number of initiatives at her company, which has been utilized as a platform to empower more women to have economic independence. In accordance with that principle, Hepsiburada launched the Technology Empowerment for Women Entrepreneurs Program in 2017.
"Leveraging Hepsiburada's digital and technological power to develop women's role in the Turkish economy, the Technology Empowerment program offers participants the opportunity to open virtual stores for free while receiving a range of benefits, including up to 75% off commission fees, free cargo shipping for six months, higher advertising visibility through fixed banner placement on Hepsiburada's website, SEO and SEM optimizations, AdWords and content support, free studio usage for photo shootings, operations and marketing support, on-site e-commerce trainings, and access to a direct special customer service hotline for assistance," Boyner said, explaining the initiative. The program also allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and foundations who support women to sign up on the site and receive the same benefits as partners of female entrepreneurs.
Speaking about the concrete results of the program, she said, in the span of three years, the Technology Empowerment program has reached more than 5,000 female entrepreneurs from 72 cities throughout Turkey. "Twenty-one percent of our total merchant base consists of women entrepreneurs now," she added.
With a view to ensuring that technology and digitalization serve as bridges – and not barriers, Boyner and her company continuously support female entrepreneurs with training and various custom-made solutions provided through their platform to help them increase sales. "Many women are also joining our recently launched 'Easy E-Export Model' and, therefore, have the opportunity to export their goods worldwide without any prior export experience," she noted.
Boyner, who will be speaking at a panel during the 50th Annual Meetings of the World Economic Forum, will elaborate on how social responsibility is good for business as the panel will address CEOs and leaders work through their companies toward "Creating Common Standards for Social Excellence."
Given a choice between doing what's most profitable and doing what's most responsible, Boyner stressed, businesses must navigate a multitude of challenging considerations – from the social to the financial to the environment – and often in the face of competing constituencies. Therefore, she will be narrating Hepsiburada's social responsibility program, "Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs through Technology" in addition to explaining how corporate actions create wider impacts on national and domestic economies. While elaborating on the outcomes of the Hepsiburada program and how it made a difference in the lives of women while creating value for the Turkish economy, Boyner will also emphasize the massive benefits that digital platforms can offer to people, companies, and economies when employed both responsibly and inclusively.
Turkey's leading e-commerce firm
The Turkish e-commerce industry has recorded steady growth in the last couple of years. In 2018, it reached a value of TL 60 billion with a 42% increase compared to the previous year. The average annual growth rate of the sector in 2014-2018, on the other hand, was 33%. While the ratio of online transactions in the total retail market in Turkey is 5.3%, the average of developed countries and developing countries was 5.9% and 11.1%, respectively.
"With a tech-savvy young population and a steady development of the internet infrastructure, Turkish e-commerce is one of the high-potential markets in the region and keeps developing rapidly," Boyner remarked.
Hepsiburada Group operates the leading e-commerce platform in Turkey and the greater region. The e-commerce platform is a fully integrated company with its last-mile delivery company Hepsijet, a 100,000-square-meter fulfillment center and a licensed payment company Hepsipay. It offers customers everything from laptops to fresh goods under the brand Hepsiexpress.
"Tens of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises, major global and local brands and a diverse set of entrepreneurs have been able to leverage Hepsiburada's platform and unleashed their business potential through e-commerce both at domestic and cross-border levels," Boyner stressed while speaking of the company's portfolio of shopowners.
"At Hepsiburada we believe in cooperation and rather than disrupting the retail industry; we are a driving force in the digital transformation of retail and our economy as a whole. Through this collaborative approach we have managed to create powerful partnerships both with established retail players as well as imported brands," the chairperson remarked.
The Turkish e-commerce industry has also been very attractive to foreign players. Global giants including eBay, Aliexpress and Amazon have been running operations in the country and ensuring tight market competition. "Our market is actually unique from this perspective that all major international e-commerce players are operating in Turkey," Boyner pointed out. Yet, she proudly underscored, Hepsiburada is the national champion and the local player as the leader of the market. "This kind of leadership by a local player is also quite unique in the industry and rarely seen in other markets," she boasted of the company's success.
In a detailed explanation of the company's philosophy of governance, she said, "Over the years, we have built a great deal of trust with our customers and merchant network. We run our business in a way where we connect the Silicon Valley mindset with Grand Bazaar culture. In other words, we provide great technological capabilities to make customers' lives easier and provide personalized experiences both for our customers and merchants."
Customer-driven in all aspects of work, Hepsiburada has the shortest fulfillment and delivery options for customers. "Through constant innovation and hard work, we will continue to have the best service for our customers and the most value for our suppliers and merchants," Boyner asserted.
Growth above market average
Enjoying a very buoyant performance in 2019, Hepsiburada as the leader of the Turkish e-commerce sector significantly outpaced the market growth last year, and the company expects to accelerate its performance even further in 2020 with a commitment to strong innovation and expansion pipeline.
"In 2019, our marketplace platform continued to grow very well and we have now more than 20,000 merchants on our platform," Boyner said. With the recently launched HepsiGlobal initiative, Hepsiburada enables thousands of SMEs, entrepreneurs and brands to access customers not just in Turkey but also around the world.
"Our 2019 performance reinforced our unique position as the end-to-end e-commerce platform both in Turkey and the region. Hepsiburada is an integrated ecosystem with approximately 25 million stock keeping units across over 35 categories and 150 million average monthly visits," Boyner explained, continuing, "Throughout 2019 we have continued to fulfill our customers' needs by launching new services. One of our most important initiatives in 2019 was the launch of Hepsiexpress."
Through a strategic partnership with the leading supermarket chain CarrefourSA, Hepsiburada launched a grocery delivery service called Hepsiexpress. With Hepsiexpress, customers can now get their daily or weekly supermarket needs including fresh and perishables delivered to their doors within two hours.
Hepsiburada has also become the only official e-commerce partner to the Apple brand where all Apple products can be purchased with specially designed experience on the platform ensuring peace of mind for its customers.
The e-commerce platform also launched a brand new financial solution. Forming a partnership with private Turkish lender DenizBank, Hepsiburada offers instant consumer loans on its platform. "When shopping through Hepsiburada, everyone, even if they don't have any bank account, can instantly access credit facility without a need to go to a branch office or pay any additional costs," the company's chairperson explained.
Referring to other services offered by Hepsiburada Group, Boyner pointed out that with the steady growth in demand of e-commerce customers, the company also continued to invest in new solutions. "We have launched Hepsijet, offering same-day delivery, next-day delivery and delivery by appointment services across major cities in Turkey," she said.
As part of an integrated platform approach, the payment solutions product Hepsipay will remain another key area of focus in the operations. Through Hepsipay, Turkey's leading e-commerce platform company offers new payment methods and services improving the shopping experience even more for its customers.
"Our e-commerce model provides necessary infrastructure and marketing tools for business owners and eliminates borders of trade by opening businesses to different markets domestically and abroad. On our platform, we bridge tens of thousand merchants and millions of customers every day for the best shopping experience overall," Boyner said, drawing attention to the principal operational guidance of her company.
Providing numerous advantages for customers, merchants and brands on the platform, Hepsiburada pledges to remain committed to increasing productivity in trade and the development of local economies.
Drawing attention to the impact of rapid digitalization of the industry on the governance principles and the actions of boards, Boyner explained that in the current rapidly changing market, leadership in a good board is more fluid and collaborative. "The board's actions that move organizations forward so they can successfully meet challenges will need to be more visible and quicker. In short, they need to be the custodian of change, respond to mitigate risk in crisis, identify opportunities for growth and create future leaders more vigorously than before," she explained.
When asked about the challenges to regulate tax regimes in the age of digitalization that has transformed business models and conventions of engaging in trade, Boyner stressed that the digital activities are borderless and global players, in particular, gain revenues beyond their borders from all around the world, sometimes even avoiding certain tax payments from their earnings.
"Policymakers around the world definitely have a challenge. While inaction could lead to continued and significant revenue losses for governments, many of which are in dire need of such revenue, regulation could easily inhibit trade and investment," she said an concluded, "We believe the recent step taken by our government on digital taxation provides balanced approach in this regard and we are fully supportive of those decisions."
In line with the global trend to regulate the earnings by digital companies, Turkey has also recently introduced a digital service tax. But companies that generate TL 20 million in revenue in Turkey and have consolidated group revenue of 750 million euros or more are subject to this tax regime where the rate is 7.5% of the gross revenue from Turkish sales.