Turkish student builds "Silk Road in the dorm room"

For Eyup Erdogan, China isn't just a place to study. It's a place to build his future career.

"My father pushed me to go to China before I entered college. He said the sooner the better," said the 23-year-old Turkish student.

The ties between China and Erdogan's family have been built for two generations. Erdogan came to China five years ago, carrying his father's hope and his own dreams.

The Erdogan family runs a sizable family business, offering one of the best cookware brands in Turkey.

Eyup's father, Ahmet Erol Erdogan, sensed potential business opportunities during a three-month trip to China 30 years ago, when he visited several coastal cities, including Shanghai, Ningbo and Guangzhou.

During his trip, he purchased 150 containers of porcelain and 50 containers of enamel plates and shipped them back to Turkey.

These kitchen products from China turned out to be extremely popular in Turkey. Later, the senior Erdogan also started selling Turkish cookware in China.

The younger Erdogan, now a student and also an entrepreneur, is following in his father's footsteps, carrying out cross-border trade between China and Turkey.

"When I was younger, Turkish companies mostly imported products from China. But as China transitions to a consumer economy, I think Turkish products will find more opportunities here," he said.

After graduating from high school, Erdogan applied for admission to three universities in China, eventually choosing New York University Shanghai (NYU Shanghai), China's first Sino-American joint research university, located near Shanghai's financial center of Lujiazui.

"Only in China can I take part in the leading economy and start my own international business," he said.

He was assigned a Chinese roommate, a cheerful Beijinger named Yan Yayuan. They built a friendship and trust and set up a company together, an endeavor they describe as "the Silk Road in the dorm room."

"Eyup didn't know how to speak Chinese at first, so I would order food delivery for him and teach him how to buy things from e-commerce site Taobao.com," said Yan. "We have become brothers."

In his sophomore year, a relative who wanted to order dental hygiene products from China contacted the younger Erdogan and asked him to visit factories in Guangzhou to check the products.

Erdogan went on a business trip to Guangzhou with Yan. After coming back, they were both impressed by the huge trading potential between China and Turkey.

"We soon decided to set up a bridge for trade between the two countries and other Belt and Road countries," said Yan.

"Made-in-China products have a huge market in Turkey, while Turkish products are aiming to enter the Chinese market as well," said Erdogan.

With help from the Consulate General of Turkey in Shanghai and NYU Shanghai, they found a legal service company and shipping company to take charge of procedures, including import and export documentation and the shipping process.

In April of last year, just ahead of graduation, they set up MEYIX Shanghai Trading Co., Ltd. in Shanghai. The firm helps connect Turkish buyers and companies in Qingdao and Guangzhou, helping to export Chinese textiles and accessories to Turkey.

The two make field trips to factories and test products every time they get a new order. They work feverishly, but also pleasantly, juggling study and business.

"We have finished five to six orders and achieved revenue of about 200,000 U.S. dollars," said Erdogan. "We know it's still a small business, but we are building up relations with partners in China and Turkey to have a solid start."

The two are eyeing expansion of their business to medical products. Their market research showed that there is huge demand for fast drug test kits because of the anti-drug movement in Turkey.

"We are applying for a license to export a drug test kit to Turkey. The products from China are easy to use with a reasonable price," said Erdogan.

After graduating from NYU Shanghai, Erdogan entered Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance for his post graduate studies, and Yan went for further studies at New York University. Although they are now in different countries, they still keep in touch each day and handle business together.

Their next mission is to bring more Turkish products to China. "Due to fierce competition here, the cookware from my family's business is not on sale in China right now. But we are still looking for opportunities to import Turkish products to China again," he said.

According to TurkStat, Turkey's exports to China reached 2.94 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, up 26.3 percent year on year. Its trade deficit with China declined 11.4 percent.

"I will stay in Shanghai after I get my master's degree and expand our business," said Erdogan. "We want our company MEYIX to be the first name that pops up when people want to do trade between China and Turkey, and other Belt and Road countries."

Editor: 董平
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