As in almost all emerging economies, Turkey’s e-commerce market is presenting very attractive growth opportunities. In 2011, with a growth rate of 57 percent, the size of the domestic online retail market reached $12.3 billion.
A recent study by BKM (Turkey’s Interbank Card Center) shows that in Q1 and Q2 of 2012, market volume was around $4 billion, which is 40.5 percent more than the same period in 2011. Naturally, these figures attract venture capital companies who “hunt” e-commerce companies in emerging markets.
As I wrote last year, Amazon’s entrance into Turkey is a key sign of the entrance of new investments and big brands into not only Turkey but also the Middle East. Markets such as Vietnam, India and Turkey will keep attracting more and more investors mainly in the e-commerce domain.
The latest news comes from Russian venture capital company Ru-net. After several investments in Russia, India and Vietnam, Ru-net’s latest move was investment in Lidyana.com, an e-commerce jewelry business. While the founders did not confirm the numbers, the $3 million investment was rumored to have been made for a 25% stake, as Lidyana.com reportedly reached a valuation of $12 million thanks to a userbase of around 35 million customers.
In addition to being the first such company in Turkey, lidyana.com has a celebrity-endorsed business model that leverages its famous investors, who include Arda Turan, a Turkish football player who currently plays for Atlético Madrid, Sina Afra, co-founder of markafoni.com and an important e-commerce figure in Turkey, Nevzat Aydin, founder of yemeksepeti.com who is one of the pioneers of the Turkish internet market, and Saffet Ulusoy, who is a board member of Ulusoy holding.
We haven’t yet seen any Ru-net investments in the Middle East, however. The entrance of lidyana.com into the Middle East market before Russia seems unlikely given the logistical difficulties in the Arab World.
In the jewelry vertical, many global competitiors are cropping up. After Stella & Dot raised $37 million from U.S. venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in January 2011, copycats such as Juvalia & You, a Berlin-based online fashion jewelry company incubated by Springstar, have begun operations in Brazil, Germany, Russia and India. Russian and Indian operations were announced two weeks ago, one of the Russian operations is also a Ru-net investment.
Although the founders of Lidyana.com do not expect to see direct competitors, I do expect to see new players come on the scene in the jewelry e-commerce business in Turkey and Middle Eastern markets, given their initial success.