SA arm of Turkish textile group eyes exports

15th October 2004 By: Laura Franz

Turkish-owned Sesli Textiles, of Johannesburg, is to double investment and production to meet the rapidly-growing needs of local and inter-national markets. New high-tech weaving machines are to be added to the company’s existing production capacity with more likely to be introduced later, doubling and redoubling current output.

Moreover, Sesli plans to manufacture its own yarn now that Sasol has stopped producing the necessary acrylic fibre, and a new 30 000 m2 factory is being sought in place of the existing rented premises in Industria to accommodate additional production. Heading up the venture are Muzaffer and Mustafa Sesli, members of a Turkish dynasty of textile manufacturers with markets throughout the Middle East and Europe.

Mustafa (the family name means loud voice), fell in love with South Africa on a visit, made a commitment to invest in the country and brought his family with him. “My English is still not good but it has improved since I came to South Africa” he quips.

Much has been achieved by the company in four years. Sesli now employs 210 people, 99% of whom are South Africans trained from scratch up to supervisory level with the emphasis on multiskilling. The target now is to employ 500 people.

The company already complies with most of the Department of Trade and Industry’s black economic empowerment scorecard and it has a vigorous social responsibility programme that includes donations to numerous charities. South Africa’s established markets, where the company’s brands have a significant share, are being broadened and new ones sought, notably among government departments such as Health, Defence and Social Welfare. Markets are supplied via wholesalers and chain stores in South Africa itself and in Africa to the likes of Nigeria, Central Africa, Malawi and Angola. New markets are being explored and the North African and American markets now beckon.

Manufacture is to international standards, the product line is being rationalised to four main brands, Lily, Moon, Beverly and Cape, within which there will be various quality grades. Design and production is high-tech and turnover has reached double-digit figures using only one shift.

By increasing shifts and weaving capacity, the company has the ability to triple turnover. Not that it has all been plain sailing. Sesli says costs in South Africa are high. An electrician, for example, costs R350/hour locally compared with the equivalent of R50/hour in Turkey and starting wages locally are higher than in Turkey. The strength of the rand has been a challenge. Also government could improve investment allowances and reduce red tape to make South Africa more investor friendly, the owner maintains. Two-way trade between South Africa and Turkey is barely R800-million a year and could be considerably boosted, in the process attracting more bilateral investment. Sesli says Sesli Textiles is helping to build business bridges between the countries.