Recognize your abilities and strengths and have a commitment to deliver.
Hakan Agro was founded in 1989 by now chairman and group CEO Hakan Bahceci. Hakan Agro specializes in the supply chain management of agricultural commodities such as oil Seeds & edible oils, frozen poultry & meats, dairy products, animal feed raw materials, spices, staples, dried fruits, packaging materials and special crops. Their offices and processing facilities in 24 different countries supply exports of 54 different food products from 55 countries to over 1000 customers in 82 countries. Hakan has over 25 years of experience in this area of business.
Hakan Bahceci, founder of Hakan Agro, holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and an MBA from Wollongong University in Australia. He has served as a board member of the grain and feed trade association, was the president of global pulse confederation between 2011-2015, as the president of international agri food network, and as chairperson of the private sector mechanism at the UN committee on world food security. Also, he was a chairman of the Turkish Business Council in Dubai from 2011 until 2017.
Where did the idea for Hakan Agro come from?
It was a continuation of my dreams from when 16 years old. I stated as an office boy – it was a 3-month internship. But there wasn’t one idea that prompted me to set Hakan Agro. During the internship I realized this was what I wanted to do. Thinking of those days everything was completely different. There was no internet, and not even mobile phones. The means of communication was simply not there. Also in the trading there was no mention of Organics, NON-GMO, or even vegan products. The product options were not there and information was not available.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start by discussing the latest business positions with the high-level management – the trade heads and sales offices. Sometimes it isn’t that it is a scheduled call but rather a discussion on how they are doing and if there are any issues or anything I can help with. I look at cashflow management. Other discussions will be to coordinate between divisions. Such as to do a review of budget versus actuals. And I dedicate a lot of time to business visits and talking to clients. It’s how we leverage our business relationships.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are good at implementing new ideas and this is something I feel very proud about. How we approach ideas differs, depending on the circumstance. It could be that we look at local conditions and ask how we can adapt these to Hakan Agro. For instance, using blockchain in the business.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Our use of blockchain because of how it is changing the business and will continue to chain our business in future. Blockchain use will increase because of the financial environment and because regulators and banks want to see full transparency. For instance, banks want to know if any money borrowed is being used for the purpose that the business has stated. Blockchain will also change the way business operates in future. Our traders will become service providers. They won’t be sitting in an office just buying and selling, and it will change their interactions with clients. And the more involvement you have with clients, the bigger you will become.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I knew I wasn’t the smartest guy, so I was careful about putting in place boundaries between my dreams and the deliverables. As a business, you must have the commitment to deliver throughout the company. And the reason you need those boundaries is because a dreamer may not have the ability to deliver and a ‘doer’ may not be able to dream and come up with new commercial ideas. Plus I work hard and always surround myself with smart people.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Think about what is important to you personally. At the cost of being successful and building Hakan Agro, I compromised on my family and social life. The new generations coming through could probably work smarter than I did when I was younger and not have to dedicate everything to work. So be honest with yourself and recognize your own capabilities.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You can’t work without trusting people. Even when someone breaks that trust, don’t then assume that everyone else will do the same. Without trust, you can’t build a successful business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Recognise your abilities and strengths and have a commitment to deliver. If you don’t recognise your strengths a lot of ideas could fade away. So, I am honest about my abilities and listen to what others have to say.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The decision to expand Hakan Agro out of Turkey. When I decided to move internationally, I looked at several business centres, including Singapore and Hong Kong. I got positive vibes with Dubai when I came here – that was 1996 – and I could feel that Dubai was going to boom. I like Dubai because there is an opportunity for everyone, no matter how much money you have. And being in Dubai helped us expand into the world. In some sense, I was head of competitors who subsequently settled in Dubai. The only difficulty of Dubai would have been its proximity to Iran which had and still has sanctions. But thankfully the positive political and economic atmosphere of Dubai has kept its status and we hope it will keep in future.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My nature of being very trusting has led to some problems, but I wouldn’t say there have been any obvious failures. I would have preferred to have had a more balanced personal and business life. Putting strong corporate governance in place has helped, as did setting up a decision-making board. Having the right corporate structure helps. It is a work in progress.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would say Blockchain and cryptocurrencies will revolutionize how the trading is done. I imagine just like how digital money will correspond to the money in our pocket, some virtual token will correspond to who actually owns a cargo on a vessel like a bill of lading. Also, various different parties will come together on the same platform and all of the manual approvals and processing will disappear. It will be a common platform which will bring together Vendors, Customers, Brokers, Shipping Lines, Insurance companies, Customs and Government Institutions (USDA), Certification companies (for organics foods) and whatnots and everyone will do basically their jobs on the blockchain. Since this will be a shared ledger everything will be transparent, and the information and money transfer will be instant. In today’s trade at some instances you have to trust the other party so instead of trusting anyone we will trust the system. I would say there can be hundreds of business idea out of this if you share this vision with me
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It wasn’t $100 but a few thousand dollars that I raised and spent on planting 3,741 trees in Turkey, in a forest that had suffered a lot of destruction as the result of a fire. I also support 20 girls in Bangladesh, through a trust that helps them up to their fifth year of education. It’s in a rural area where girls don’t have a lot of opportunities for education. For a few dollars a day I can help change their fate.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
It is the software which we use to run our whole business. It is called: TrackOn. It’s a trading and logistic solution that gives us full traceability on all our trades.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read a lot of history books. Before I travel to a new country I like to find a book on the history of that place. One I would recommend about the Middle East is by David Fromkin called A Peace To End All Peace.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s one that I heard. The fastest beats the best.
• I enjoyed thinking about where I started from and how we have built Hakan Agro over the years.
• Reflecting on some our business and my personal interests. It gives you perspective.
• It has reminded me of some of the things I achieved that have not come up in the interview. Such as the work I did with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization around the Year of the Pulses in 2013. We were really able to highlight the importance of pulses to peoples’ health and for some, to their livelihoods.