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Every shipment we carry is more than a mere package for us, it is rather "a value".

Publication: Klass Magazine
Spokesperson: Aras Kargo Genel Manager Utku Ayyarkın

1. Would you mind telling us the story of Aras Kargo, a company that has pioneered many projects in its sector in Turkey and is involved in the development of the sector?

The foundation of Aras Kargo was set in 1979 by our founder Celal Aras as a marketing and distribution company. The mastermind behind our company's deep-rooted history and success in this sector is our founder Celal Aras, who started his company 41 years ago as a sales and marketing company and transformed it into a shipping business after realising the future potential in this sector. On the solid and valuable foundation he created, all our managers who have taken over the flag have led the company step by step towards becoming a 100-year-old company, which was also our founder's wish, and we keep doing this together. In tandem with the development of our service network, we have introduced our industry-leading innovations every year to meet our customers' expectations. Our most valuable asset on this long journey has been, and continues to be, our competent staff. The selfless work of nearly 14 thousand Aras employees enables us to make a difference in the industry. We are part of a big, wonderful family with over 800 branches, 28 transfer centres and around 14 thousand employees, and we are one of the shipping companies with the largest distribution network in Turkey. We know that our fellow employees have played a big part in every success we have achieved and every goal we have reached. At the same time, we possess a dynamic structure that rapidly adapts to the changing conditions of the day. We realise all the technological and operational investments that this requires. All this combined is what pushes us forward. Since day one, we have been leading the industry with our ground-breaking and innovative services, and we continue to invest with the vision of growing into a "world brand". With our investments, we continue to create both jobs and value for our country.

2. How did you cross paths with Aras Kargo? What was it that changed after your general management?

Our company goes back a long way in history, knowledge and experience. I have been employed in this company for 16 years and was appointed General Manager about a year ago. My first encounter with the company started as an agency.

The structure of Aras Kargo, which keeps track of and values the work, dedication and efforts of its employees, has had a very positive impact on my career. Just like in my career that started as an agency, there are many success stories in our company that started as couriers and rose to management. This career approach enables us to work with experienced managers who have learned the business from scratch and know all its subtleties, and it also offers all my colleagues who have potential and the desire to make a career in this sector the opportunity to advance, regardless of the position they start in.

In that sense, Aras Kargo has been both a school for me to learn the sector and an opportunity to make a career in a big family of 14,000 people. The momentum and growth potential of the sector impressed me a lot back in the day. In my foresight and belief in the continuity of this potential, I decided to leave the agency and work professionally at Aras Kargo. With the agreement of the management at the time, I started my career in the company as a Sales Manager. I was then appointed Assistant Regional Manager or Regional Manager. As part of the agency transformation project initiated by the company in 2008, I was appointed as the Agencies Manager and was involved in leading and designing the process to increase the agency ratio from 12 percent to 70 percent in less than two years. I took on the position of Business Development and Strategy Director. About a year ago, I was appointed General Manager of Aras Kargo. In my 15-year career in the shipping industry, I have worked in almost every department of Aras Kargo, learning the intricacies of the business and getting to know the company intimately. In recent years, we have correctly assessed the impetus of e-commerce for the industry, made our investments in this direction and achieved a steady growth trend. With all my colleagues, we will continue to drive Aras Kargo towards becoming a 100-year-old brand that maintains its growth trend, makes the right investments and implements the regulations demanded by the sector at the right time. The clearest evidence of this ambition is that Aras Kargo has kept its double-digit growth stable over the last 3 years.

3. The transport sector is the gateway to many sectors in Turkey, generally speaking. It also plays an intermediary role for manufacturers or companies that offer their products to people. In your opinion, where do you think the shipping sector lies in the economy?

Today, more than 110 thousand people are employed in the Turkish shipping, courier and distribution sector. With 25,000 vehicles and 10,000 fixed centres, 7.5 million addresses are served daily and 5 million kilometres are traversed. The sector, which employs the world's leading multinationals, has a customer satisfaction rate of 97%, exceeding even EU standards. The shipping sector, which blends our country's geographical advantage with a high-quality and fast service that meets the demands of the times and the needs of consumers, is in line to be a candidate for a place among the strategic sectors of 2023. The e-commerce sector, which has developed rapidly in recent years, also makes the shipping sector's place in the economy important. In relation to the increasing e-commerce volume, the shipping sector is also developing and improving to match the changing shopping habits. We are investing all our technological and infrastructural measures in this direction.

4. A sector that allows people who are thousands of kilometres apart to be close to each other, not only on an economic basis. How would you evaluate it in this context?

Transport of goods is, in your words, a sector that brings people closer together, ensures the fulfilment of needs and eliminates distances. It would not be wrong to say that it is of strategic importance to this end. As Aras Kargo, we interact with thousands of people every day with our 14,000 employees to deliver about 600,000 shipments to their owners. Every shipment we carry is more of a "value" to us than a mere parcel. As we emphasise in our slogan, we carry every parcel with great importance.

5. Aras Kargo offers services throughout Turkey with its wide distribution network. Can you brief us on the services and differences that Aras Kargo offers to the sector?

As Aras Kargo, we offer delivery solutions to meet all our customers' needs, both domestically and internationally. On top of our standard service, our preferred services are Aras Tahsilatlı (Cash on delivery), where we offer easy payment at the doorstep, and Aras Uçak (Aircraft), which speeds up shipping time in our provinces that are suitable for air transport. We also receive very good feedback on the solutions and services we provide to satisfy our customers. According to the SME e-commerce report, we have been voted the "SME's preferred carrier" for the past three years. In addition, we have been named " The Brand with the Best Design and Customer Experience" at the ALFA Awards for the last two years in a row.

6. The evolution and development of technology is also pushing the shipping sector into new dimensions. As a company that immediately adopts new technologies and offers them to its customers, how do you make use of technology? What kind of expectations do you have for future technologies?

Setting priorities for investments in digital transformation and technological infrastructure is vital to live up to the current expectations and keep pace with global change. We keep a close eye on the technological development required for the sector and adjust our investments accordingly.

In this respect, one of our investment priorities this year is the mapping infrastructure. Our main goal is to fully switch to optimising courier routes. Another investment priority is handheld terminals, which are an indispensable part of our couriers. With our investment in handheld terminals, we are able to track all our business transactions using the "direct scanning" method.

In this regard, we also continue to make investments in the technologisation of our transfer centres, which we started a few years ago, with the aim of making business processes more efficient. In this vein, we first technologically upgraded our İkitelli Transfer Centre, one of our largest transfer centres in terms of both operations and square footage, and increased the centre's capacity from 5,500 items per hour to 15,000. It was built as one of the largest facilities under a single roof in Europe. Last year, we technologically renovated the Orhanlı transfer centre on the Anatolian side of Istanbul and our Izmir transfer centre and converted them to the sorter system. We plan to complete Ankara this year. In an attempt to better handle the increasing volume of e-commerce shipments, we have invested in small parcel sorting machines on both sides of Istanbul. We plan to continue these investments in our major cities this year.

7. I see you also have a Guinness record to your name.... In addition, you have won many successes and awards from national and international assessment companies. Can you give us an insight into these as well? In the context of Aras Kargo's 30th anniversary events, an unforgettable commemoration was signed on behalf of our company by our management at the time. In 2009, three Guinness records were broken in one day: "Loading and unloading 800 boxes onto a truck in the fastest time", "The most shipments delivered under one invoice number" and "Halay (Turkish folk dance) circle with the most people". Just as you said, our company has had many achievements and awards since its inception. If we tried to count them, we would easily lost count. Looking We were awarded the International CSR Excellence Awards in the category of 'Corporate Citizenship', 'Pollution Prevention', and the Stevie International Business Awards in the area of Social Responsibility.

For the past three years, we have been voted the 'most preferred shipping company by SMEs' according to the SME E-Commerce Report. At the ALFA Awards, we were named 'The Brand that Best Designs and Presents Customer Experience' for the last two years in a row. At the ECHO Awards, which recognise e-commerce platforms for the best shopping experience, we were chosen as the company that provides the best e-commerce experience to its customers in the shipping category." In our 41-year history, every award we have received for both our business processes and the environment is very valuable and meaningful to us.

8. We are also grappling with an epidemic that has recently hit the world and created a pandemic. As a brand that serves millions of people, what are the measures taken by Aras Kargo?

As Aras Kargo, we value the health of our employees and customers over anything else. We conduct all our business processes and operations with great sensitivity. For the protection of both our customers and our employees, we take precautionary measures as per the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and maintain our measures at the highest level. To begin with, we have informed all our employees about the measures to protect themselves from the coronavirus in accordance with the guidelines published by the Ministry of Health and the 14-day rule. We have put our employees who fall in the risk group and are experiencing health problems, are over 60 years old, are pregnant, etc., on administrative leave.

Regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, we are conducting non-contact fever checks at the entrances of all our units and in case of high fever, we instruct our company doctors. We ensure that we maintain the distance recommended by the Ministry of Health between our clients and couriers while collecting and delivering goods. When delivering goods, we make sure to use contactless delivery. If clients' ID cards have a chip, we scan them without making contact, and if it is an old ID card, we check the card remotely and take the first and last name. We provide an adequate supply of masks and gloves for all our staff and keep hand sanitizer in all units. We allow a maximum of 3 customers into the branch, tell them verbally to keep their distance and make them aware with written instructions in our branches. We use floor marking tapes to maintain the recommended distances.

When it comes to sterilisation, we carry out sterilisation procedures in all our branches at the prescribed intervals. In addition, sterilisation procedures are carried out at our head office, regional offices and transfer centres. In-vehicle sterilisation is carried out at the transfer centres, including our staff shuttles.

9. During this process, people had to meet their basic needs and their general needs without having to leave their homes, and the shipping sector met these needs with great dedication. How did you shape your activities in this process?

According to the Nielsen e-commerce panel, over the five weeks after the first case became known, the market saw growth of 171%, which was three times higher than in the first two months of 2020.

As a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus affecting the whole world, it would be safe to say that there is a differentiation of shopping habits and priority needs, and there is mobility. The movement of goods from company to company has declined. Goods deliveries from businesses to individuals have increased. While there was an increase in demand for basic needs products, hygiene and cleaning products, and sporting goods, there was a decrease in the ordering of some products. Our industry is quite used to such hectic periods. We are geared up for active periods of discount promotions. In the last two years, e-commerce shipments have increased and, especially during promotional periods, 50 percent or more of our daily transaction volume is shipped. We have invested in our transfer centres and IT infrastructure to handle the increasing volume. With the necessary infrastructure and technological investments, we can provide a more efficient and systematic service during these important periods.

10. Who knows, after the pandemic, the sector might go through a new process. What do you think the sector will experience in this new process? What are Aras Kargo's goals in this process going forward?

Technology and digitalisation have greatly increased in importance as a result of the pandemic. In the shipping sector, with its highly dynamic structure, it is more vital than ever to make investments in technology, to strengthen infrastructure and to make business processes more efficient in line with changing requirements. We keep abreast of this change and continue our infrastructure investments on the technology side without interruption. In this spirit, we have accelerated our work on digital transformation, which started about three years ago. Our initial investments were mainly in technologies such as vehicle refurbishment, handheld terminals, resource planning software, electronic measuring and weighing systems and conveyor systems. With the digital transformation, we have started to transform not only software and systems, but also our organisation, branches and transfer centres. This transformation has a positive impact on our customers' workflows and gives them competitive strength in their industries.
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