Onur Erardag, founder of brokerage firm Nautique, tells SYT how he found his feet in business By Rebecca Smurthwaite.
I grew up in a yachting family, so sailing has always been part of my life. From the age of seven, I competed in sailing regattas and I was in the Turkish national team. I moved to the Netherlands to study International Business Management and after graduation, I moved back to Turkey. I have always spent my life on, or around, boats and I had always wanted to start my own business. Eventually, I met with a Dutch partner and together we started Nautique. At first, Nautique was mainly just products, supplying composites, accessories and build materials to shipyards. But over the course of our first year, my partner introduced me to a new side of the industry, that being of course, buying and selling yachts.
I founded the company in 2010, and transformed it into a brokerage firm a year later. I was more interested in the yachting division than the product side. My partner moved to the United States, and I took over the company. We were one of the first brokerage firms to bring European yachts to Turkey. We built up a very good network, I represented Dutch brands in Turkey, we worked with the best maritime lawyers and surveyors in the industry, we moved into the charter, new-build and management sectors, and from there continued to grow exponentially.
We were the first company in Turkey to work with European brands, and we managed to build an extremely strong customer base. Clients ring us directly because they know we have experience within an international business framework, and many are return clients. It’s a cycle — a client gets involved, starts small, then wants to go bigger and bigger. I believe you have to live the same lifestyle as your clients, that way you build trust, you are in the game and know what your client wants and the product very well.
There is definitely a disparity between certain markets. Take the Turkish, EU and American markets, the most important difference between them is the client’s purchasing behaviour. The Turkish market is much more price-oriented, and whilst the EU and American market is also like that, buyers are more experienced in yachting due to their history, so they prioritise other details too. I am lucky because I lived in the Netherlands for a long time, which means I can adapt and act according to my client’s mindset.
As we all know, Covid-19 closed many of the typical summer destinations and people retreated to safety. However, wealthier people turned to yachting to find isolation. This created a huge demand in the market. What many people did not realise is that buying a yacht is not like buying a car, there are heavy running costs involved, as well as crew and management costs. A year on, and owners are realising the costs of owning and running a yacht, and I think many will start to sell due to these expenses. So yes, there will be a transition time, but by 2022 I expect the shipyards to be full again, and I think we will see a stabilised market by late 2023.
Like other industries, timing is the most important thing to consider when you set up a business. I was lucky with timing when I set up my own. We invested into our website design, emailing campaigns, and apps early on. We followed the global industry closely and invested into our CRM system. I was also the first to offer 3D shootings for yachts in Turkey and made the first app on the market for it. Right now, too many people are involved, yachting is too popular. Everyone wants to be a broker, but there is a lot of competition and a huge number of companies operating. So actually, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to start a brokerage at this moment — everyone thinks selling a boat is easy, but it is definitely not. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, though! Who doesn’t love a challenge?