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Airfel Isitma T urkey stands at a moment of great opportunity, Hasan Önder believes. The effect and timing of its accession to the European Union are unpredictable, but whether or not this comes off, its geographical and cultural proximity to the growing markets of the Middle East, the CIS nations and the Indian subcontinent conspire with its political independence to make it the object of intense interest from West and East alike. US President Obama's visit in April, during which he claimed Turkey as a critical ally, was an important confidence booster to the entire nation, he says. When Önder, then just 30, returned from the Far East in 1999 seeing the need for an independent supplier of heating and cooling products in Turkey, he set up a marketing company to distribute domestic boilers and air conditioners from the Chinese manufacturer Haier. Keen to set up local manufacturing facilities, he put together a team of 13 mechanical engineers from his network at Istanbul Technical University, where he qualified, and he was soon in talks with the ? 2.5 billion Turkish industrial group Sanko. Sanko's base had been in the textile industry, but it was keen to diversify and to pick Önder's brain on the heating and cooling market that he knew well. Following these discussions, Sanko decided that it would rather invest in this fast- moving company than any existing player, so it took a 75 percent stake in Airfel and put up the financing to enable it to establish itself as a manufacturer of central and domestic heating and air cooling equipment and in 2002 to build a factory near Hendek, 90 miles east of Istanbul. " Then we built three more factories from the ground up," says Önder, " a radiator factory, a combi boiler factory, and an air conditioner factory." The radiator plant at Hendek has a capacity of 1.5 million linear metres, making it a major supplier to the 5- million- metre Turkish market; it also exports to Europe, South America, Middle East, Russia and China, he says. Airfel- branded radiators to China? Yes indeed. Airfel has an offi ce in Guangzhou where it employs two Turkish engineers and six Chinese staff members, visiting the factories and working with universities on product development. Steel has halved in cost over the last two years, but the main reason Airfel can sell its radiators in China is the manufacturing effi ciency and quality built into its production plants. " Nearly 95 percent of the world air conditioner market, more than 65,000,000 sets, belongs to China," Önder says. " Although we do source some components from June 09 www. bus- ex. com 63 Playitcool Hasan Önder fi ts every defi nition of a real entrepreneur. A Turkish project engineer who likes to innovate, he anticipates growth in markets that he knows well. John O'Hanlon speaks to the general manager and founder of Airfel Isitma