Although, there were some speculations about this leave because while 2007 end was closing, Vodafone Turkey was not showing a success story as much as mentioned at the beginning of the year. So, the subject of the speculations was Vitai: “Will he still stay as a CEO or not?” But at the time these specs raised, it was not the fiscal year end of Vodafone International and Vitai was holding his position within the company. Even we heard rumors about him telling to his close friends that he would leave the company in 2009 as a retired CEO.
Then, why he is leaving now? What has happened since?
From a year ago, since Sureyya Ciliv has become the CEO of Turkcell, to the end of 2nd quarter results was announced, the main question in GSM sector was, whether Turkcell would begin to lose while competition was rising and Ciliv was assumed to be close to the IT sector rather than GSM industry. But now it is seen that Turkcell is not losing its place.
During 2006 and even in the first quarter of 2007, while CEO position was vacant, Turkcell’s financial results were flat. But with the 2nd quarter of 2007, Turkcell became a hot wave in the sector. Ciliv factor have showed itself. Then, even international brokers have started advising Turkcell stocks as one of the rising stars. Today, although Turkcell executives are commenting, Q1- 2008 results didn’t make them happy enough, this is showing a kind of self confidence which is meaning “being more successful would be more appropriate for them”.
Most likely, the key factor which prepared the leave of Vitai is this. In general terms, Turkcell’s position, and in details, Q1 fiscal results of Turkcell versus Vodafone results (will be announced in 28th May) prepared the leave.
When Vodafone took the wheel in Telsim in June 2006 from TMSF, Turkish GSM sector and journalists first paid attention to Atilla Vitai, CEO of Vodafone Turkey, as “A hungarian who can’t speak the hungarian language”. Speculations were made after this as “Vitai would be acting like an English mayor and would never get close to the Turkish culture”.
But after a while, at the press meeting while announcing 0,38 YTL/minute price packet and then during the Vodafone party in Kazlicesme, Atilla Vitai was giving an impression that he would have a great performance.
Although Vitai was sounding as a friendly person, sector has always made speculations about him and his management style.
My impression in the mediums I met with him, always was positive. He seemed as a gentleman who was listening closely with his big blue eyes wide open, replying straight forward and sometimes even supporting. We had an interview with him in April 2007 and at this interview he talked mainly on the infrastructural investments and the training of staff.
The Turkish executives, who had carried the company for years, were left behind while English executives, who had no relation with Turkish business and public culture, were attended to the top levels. Thus, for example, losing the top level Sales & Marketing Executive Aydin Camlibel to the Turk Telekom, was assumed likewise move. Some people are still commenting today as it was a turning point for Vodafone Turkey.
Mentioning sales and marketing, I would like to comment that, I have always felt that Vodafone have seemed to be distant to the Turkish culture from advertisement perspective too. Beside the “Geyik” campaign, that has began sometime ago, the earlier ads were not connecting with Turkish public. I am not only talking about the reaction-taking TV ad in which a girl was calling her father to say she was going to be a belly dancer. As you remember, it was banned, since found not appropriate for the Turkish Culture by advertisement commission of Ministry of Industry –it was right since public felt so–. But I am also talking about the one about a musician that has been discovered on the streets (it would be more meaningful if it was something like Tatlises beeing discovered at a construction site), the one about a rich woman is buying all her luxury a low level boutique; the one about a boss who is not listening a potentially big client possibility just because he is abroad (would be more meaningful if he had turned the phone off, while he was abroad). Those advertisements were even not getting close to the Turkish culture but, as I mentioned before, they were also insulting the public by showing the father-belly dancer daughter in contrary with the local culture. However, the first Vodafone advertisement was quite successful. In that ad, there was a girl calling her boyfriend and Vodafone was carrying her all the way along to him from one part of the country to a very far another part, above the hands and shoulders of the Vodafone staff.
On the other side, Vodafone International CEO Arun Sarin acknowledged the press that they didn’t participate in the 3G bid since Ministry of Transport officials told them not to. That was also a sign showing that Vodafone couldn’t get the Turkish sense and mentality –in a way which even I applause Mr.Sarin to say this directly–. Consultants are probably making general remarks instead of collecting real local information (as a general fault of all the international companies in Turkey). They have made the local authorities really angry and Ministry of Transport replied this acknowledge as “They’re the Vodafone, they are just living the moment” (I would like to remind you that this is their advertisement motto).
And here is one more approach: Some people are commenting that Vitai’s left is related with the “infrastructural problems”. Motorola has been commissioned for the infrastructure for a very low price last year, but today it is seen that Vodafone’s Turkey infrastructure has not even came close to the requested coverage or quality level. Last year, there was another advertisement about the coverage area and Vitai made a speech in a conference that Vodafone was covering the most of the Istanbul. But regulatory body said they have no testing procedure or tools to size this coverage while an Avea engineer was asking “How are they determining this result?” After then, this coverage story has not heard again. Today, some problems are still going on in the coverage area issue.
During the interview I mentioned above, Vitai was talking about value added services while we were asking him who their rivals were, Turkcell or Turk Telekom or Avea. He replied they were not seeing any of these companies as rivals but they were targeting all areas together within the extent of communication. They were targeting, for example, pizza or movie orders via cell phone or music and movie downloads. But as end of the year, we can’t see any important difference or development for value added services from Turkcell or Avea. Even these companies showed that they are far ahead of Vodafone especially with their studies on mobile signature.
As a conclusion, we see that Vitai has left his position without any pre-sign and no one is appointed for his position. Although Vodafone has not made any comment on the reasons of this leave, comments form the observers point out that Vodafone has not reached the position they had targeted before and therefore went for a change.
Turkish translation of this article can be read by clicking here.
Related Link :
Note : We will publish a broad analysis of Turkish Mobile Market in a few days.