Rahmi M. Koç
Turkey
Rahmi M. Koç
  • Honorary Chairman, Koç Holding (Diversified)
Born Ankara, Turkey, 1930. BA, Johns Hopkins University (1956).
“It is not easy in this global world. Competition is very, very tough, even merciless. The mother companies in other markets are very strong. They can afford to lose ten years in order to get control of one market.”

Summary

Rahmi Koç was chairman of Koç Holding, Turkey’s largest diversified business group representing 8 per cent of the country’s GDP, between 1984 and 2003, when he became Honorary Chairman. The group had been created by his father Vehbi, a serial entrepreneur who had started the business in the newly founded Republic of Turkey in the 1920s. During the postwar decades, it grew enormously in the context of a highly protected Turkish economy, diversifying into automotives, consumer durables, retail, construction, tourism and many other activities, while still being closely controlled by Vebhi and his family. Rahmi Koç joined one of the group’s automotive businesses in 1958, after attending Johns Hopkins University and eighteen months of military service. In this interview he discusses his formative early years in the business, and the challenges of navigating Turkey’s closed, highly regulated and turbulent economy, especially before 1980, when a process of slow liberalization began. The subsequent opening of the country to greater international competition provided a new set of challenges. The interview explores both how Koç built a successful global business for the wholly-owned Arçelik white goods business, and why many other businesses, dependent on foreign corporate partners and licenses, still remain domestically focused. Under his leadership, Koç explains how he began to streamline the highly diversified portfolio and, especially, how he began to professionalize the management, even while seeing the continued family role as essential to the cohesion and vision of the group. The interview shows how managers were developed inside the group within the context of a corporate culture which embraced both business and social behavior, with a set of values stressing the importance of social etiquette, respectable family lives, fairness and honesty.

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Rahmi Koç was chairman of Koç Holding, Turkey’s largest diversified business group representing 8 per cent of the country’s GDP, between 1984 and 2003, when he became Honorary Chairman. The group had been created by his father Vehbi, a serial entrepreneur who had started the business in the newly founded Republic of Turkey in the 1920s. During the postwar decades, it grew enormously in the context of a highly protected Turkish economy, diversifying into automotives, consumer durables, retail, construction, tourism and many other activities, while still being closely controlled by Vebhi and his family. Rahmi Koç joined one of the group’s automotive businesses in 1958, after attending Johns Hopkins University and eighteen months of military service. In this interview he discusses his formative early years in the business, and the challenges of navigating Turkey’s closed, highly regulated and turbulent economy, especially before 1980, when a process of slow liberalization began. The subsequent opening of the country to greater international competition provided a new set of challenges. The interview explores both how Koç built a successful global business for the wholly-owned Arçelik white goods business, and why many other businesses, dependent on foreign corporate partners and licenses, still remain domestically focused. Under his leadership, Koç explains how he began to streamline the highly diversified portfolio and, especially, how he began to professionalize the management, even while seeing the continued family role as essential to the cohesion and vision of the group. The interview shows how managers were developed inside the group within the context of a corporate culture which embraced both business and social behavior, with a set of values stressing the importance of social etiquette, respectable family lives, fairness and honesty.
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Additional Resources

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Interview Citation Format

"Interview with Rahmi M. Koç, interviewed by Felix Oberholzer-Gee, February 12, 2015, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/."