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An interview with Astel’s Selen Güler Arabaci

Selen Güler Arabaci is product manager at Astel, a distributor located in Istanbul. Here, she talks about how she sees the distribution market being squeezed, about the mistakes she believes manufacturers make that harm their business, about the importance of a manufacturer’s support and about Astel’s strategies and goals.

What changes have you seen in the distribution business over the past few years?

It often seems as if the distribution opportunity is getting smaller – not just here in Turkey, but in many countries. Some well-known projector companies prefer not to give exclusive distribution rights – so they have several distributors who compete with each other with the same brand in the market. That means lost profit as well as a decrease in growth both for the manufacturers and for their resellers.

Other well-known projector companies prefer to open their own offices in countries – cutting out their local distributors. They don’t see that there can be many disadvantages in doing this. Very often, they’re not familiar with how the market is structured – and they bring with them the sales and marketing mentality of their home country. In Turkey, that just doesn’t work. They try to dominate the market by decreasing prices, supported by their global marketing budget. In reality, they can never expect to achieve the same success as a local distributor who understands the market requirements.

What are the big challenges that you think the distribution business faces in the next year or two?

Competition in the market is tough. The market is becoming very price-oriented, and no one cares about after sales service. This undermines the distributors’ efforts and frustrates their investments.

We work only on an exclusive basis. As an example, if we talk about our business with Christie, we have been Christie’s exclusive distributor for more than eight years and our major strength lies in our support to our potential and current customers – support that is made possible by the full support we get from Christie. We have one or two competitor brands in the market who try to compete with us with more than three or four distributor companies: they also compete with each other, so their competition is mainly price competition.

In recent years, most of the distributor companies made losses and lost their distributorships; we believe more will follow them in the next couple of years.

What is Astel’s business strategy?

Our focus has always been professional visual systems, and our strategy has been to continuously innovate and to deliver fast and reliable customer service – both before and after the sale. We have always looked to establish long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our suppliers, and to treat their brands as if they were our own. We work in harmony with them, executing joint marketing campaigns that involve our salesforce, combining both push and pull
It’s the same with our customers: we look to create long term relationships, and try to create a “we are family” atmosphere by engaging with them regularly in social events that we organise. We think we offer value to our customers – and that helps us to maintain our margins in the face of pricing pressure.

Turkey is, like many EMEA countries, in something of a crisis – but we think we can turn this crisis period into opportunity. Our management and sales teams are highly experienced, and they’re looking closely at what the market is asking for, evaluating customer needs and trying to ascertain how we can respond.
Our goals are to be perceived as fair and trustworthy, to achieve continuous and sustainable growth and to achieve leadership in the Turkish market.

How do you choose which products/manufacturers Astel will represent?

We are one of the top professional companies in visual systems in Turkey. In recent years, most suppliers have offered us the opportunity to become their distributor. We choose the companies we will work with on the basis that they must provide us the exclusivity necessary for us to justify making the investment in support that enables us to offer excellent customer service. Our preference is always to work with well-known brands who can bring real value to our business and with whom we can develop a long-term relationship.