A story of success, tenacity and determination
Şamil Çapar, CEO, Koray Construction
In his business life which he started as Planning Engineer, he became board member at the age of 34. He travelled Turkey in his childhood and travelled the whole world city by city in his business life. Cooperating with the King of Jordan for 8 years, he has built the most prestigious school of Middle East, King’s Academy. He is a huge supporter of Galatasaray and a fan of Filiz Akın. His passion is primarily his children and after them, it’s his business. CEO of Koray Construction, Samil Capar is on the cover of this month’s Noble and Royal.
He went to Nigeria from Italy and then to Moscow from there. And then, he met with us in Istanbul. We caught Samil Capar in the weekend before Sacrifice Holiday in his Office in Yapi Kredi Plaza. It was one of the rare moments that he has been in Istanbul. He came to interview with his greatest passion, his children, Gamzegul and Atakan. With the pre-holiday rain of Istanbul, we had a pleasant conversation with Mr. Samil, drinking our hot coffees sitting in the comfortable seats in his comfortable office. We took a look at his projects, we talked about his business life, childhood and impressive career.
In Koray Construction which he started as Planning Engineer in 1997, he became board member at the age of 34. In that period, he was one of the youngest or important board members. He also isn’t completely sure. He firstly defines himself as an engineer and secondly, as a Project Manager. His businessman identity comes before his title. But he is an everlasting student. He still does his doctorate. He has begun his doctorate in ITU in 1998. He hasn’t been able to execute compulsary attendance and has been dismissed from the university. One day, he arrives in home and sees two envelopes sent by ITU, on the table. As one of them says “We appreciate you for conducting a seminar in our university and contributing our students”, the other one says “You are dismissed from doctorate program”. But with the amnesties, he re-enrolls the university. He also does not know when he will finish. As we already told you that he has begun to work in Koray Construction in 1997; it seems that he was one of the people who used to think that entering a company and working there more than 3 years is unreasonable, during his studentship. This is the life…
By the way, he is actually from Gaziantep. His fascination with kitchen comes from there. He also has some gourmet skills. He can’t resist stuffed vine leaves. His passion coming after his children is music and theater. There also comes a confession during the interview: “I’m a huge fan of Filiz Akin. There have been some days that I didn’t take exams at university because of Filiz Akin’s movies.”
Your mostly spoken characteristic is that you travel very often…
Yes. Sometimes I go to another country after just staying in an airport for 2 hours. For instance, I know every part of all the airports in the world. When I don’t go anywhere and stay here for a long time, I say to myself that if only something happens to make me go. Habitude… It’s tiresome but it has a nice charm.
Everyone likes travelling but what is that nice charm you mentioned of such an intensive travelling?
For example, North Africa and Middle East are the environments with very different cultures. Sometimes the culture differs even from a city to another. It is very nice to know those new structures. I always take photos in the places that I travel to. I certainly take notes if I like a food or a restaurant very much. I used to travel to Gulf for a long time. Their local cultures are very different. For example, I leave those places and dive into different cultures in Moscow.
Your trips are often but they are short-trem trips, right? Or do you experience long-term stays?
Yes. I think that I’ve never stayed for a week. Maximum 5 days… For example, if you ask me Venice, I can describe you its airport very well. I have chance to familiarize with the cultures and especially with the foods, only in dinners. Because our business related with Europe is based on projects, there is a rush happening very often.
Enjoyable, but isn’t it difficult for your family life?
I didn’t like it early on. I was on a Romania trip and could hardly attain to the birth of Atakan. But now, I hold the balance.
How is the reaction of your family to your frequent trips? Children?
It is also difficult for them but as I said before, I try to find a common area as much as possible. Once, we built Forum Shopping Center in Gaziantep. My daughter was on a holiday there. We went there with Atakan, attended our meetings and then met with my daughter and travelled Gaziantep.
You are from Gaziantep, aren’t you?
Yes. But my childhood never passed there. My parents are from Gaziantep. I lived in Adana for 4 years and returned to Istanbul.
Well, which is the most beautiful city in the world? With the eye of an engineer…
It’s exactly the city where you live. Istanbul. It has a lot of problems of course. I drive through the traffic of the bridge but it’s still different here. When you look at the beauties of it one by one, Istanbul is a very beautiful city but it’s in bad repair in the meaning of urban planning. Anyway, no matter where you look, it’s still a city with full of history. And Bosphorus… Not only its view, it’s a life for Istanbul.
What mostly impresses you in Istanbul?
Which other cities have impressed you?
I liked Georgia so much. It is also very nice to go to Libya and do something in their style by going out to the desert. We had been doing work for the King of Jordan for 8 years. There is a famous place called Wadi Rum; it is quite different to watch the stars from inside of the tent. There are no city lights. Every single city has their own characteristics. But anyway, Istanbul has a unique place in my heart.
You travelled so much cities in your childhood, didn’t you?
Yes. My father was a military surgeon. Now, he’s retired. Therefore, I never finished any school in the same place where I started to study. I was complaining at first but later on, I reaped the benefit of that situation. We lived in many different cities like Corlu, Adana, Ankara, Siirt, Kahramanmaras. Every single person likes different scenes of a movie. And this experience is something like that for me. After finishing the elementary school, I studied in Kadikoy Anatolian High School at the age of 12, as a boarder. Since that year, I lived with my family for approximately 5 years in total. I was always outside except that. And this situation brings the one in different nature.
When did you become sedentary in Istanbul?
After coming back from Libya in 1997… However, I graduated and completed my master’s degree in Istanbul.
Let’s talk about your business life… Are Koray Yapi and Koray Construction connected to the same holding?
Koray Yapi is the big brother of all the holding companies. It was founded by Ayduk Koray in 1956. It’s the first and the main company. The other works done are all placed under the roof of Koray Yapi.
Do you have more projects in Turkey or abroad?
Our aim, in fact, is to perform the most important and prestigious works in Turkey. We also take place abroad with the projects such as Russia and Libya. Eczacibasi Holding has a very big investment in Zekeriyakoy which we work on it. Garanti Bank will have a very special place in both Europe and the world and we construct the technology campus in Pendik. We follow the big and special works. Our style doesn’t let us to work with everyone.
When did you start to work in Koray Construction?
In 1997. I used to say that entering a company and working there for more than 3 years is unreasonable.
What was the factor connecting you to the same company for such a long time?
A person’s own character, life and growth style are very important. Wherever I go, I always want to be in a structure that suits with my own structure and identity. Construction industry isn’t easy. It has ups and downs… Companies where you can actualize yourself are very low in numbers. Business structures that will make you able to feel peace of mind while you are going home are very low. It is very important to say “I have never lied to anyone. I have never cheated anyone”.
You are an example of a rapid and consistent elevation. What are your recommendations to the new ones?
The recommendation coming to my mind at first, which is the most important for me, is to know your own mind and to be determined. These two things are very important for both social and business life. I think that we have started to be a bit whimsical. We suddenly want to build something to somewhere. I have never thought small or worked just to handle the day. I always left in the preceding places when I said “This is not the right place for me”. I am in the places where I’m happy to be in. Construction Department of ITU was always in my dreams and I studied in there, for example. In fact, I was very disappointed when I graduated. I used to think that I didn’t have sufficient equipment when I graduated. My university years were not that bright. I never took a make-up exam but I didn’t study enjoying. So, I decided to do master’s degree in project management in ITU again. I have internalized that program so much… I always took Law, Human Affairs, Management, System Planning, Overcoming the Stress lessons. It was incredibly joyous. And I also saw it that day, whatever the one does, he/she should do what he/she loves in the place where he/she loves. I have read a saying in somewhere: “The people who are unemployed are not the only ones unemployed but the people who don’t do better when they could”. Very true…
University was not bright; what about master’s degree?
I completed the postgraduate program with overachievement. I was the only one who got 100 points from our prelector. I struggled so much to absorb his knowledge. I still give speeches at universities. I always try to tell a different vision. I give examples from Ataturk. I give examples from life. Shortly, knowing own mind is hard to find but one of the most important parameters of life.
You have a nature of a person who is determined and who chases his dreams persistently…
When I was going to university, I passed here. That’s when I saw Koray for the first time. I said that I will work in Koray one day. In that time, these buildings were being constructed. I said that I wish I could work in these buildings. Of course, I have had some luck. But I knew what I want as soon as I finished the master’s.
How your career rising happened?
I started to work in Koray as Planning Engineer. We were constructing branch banks. It was an important building site. But I got bored a little bit. Then, I passed to Sabanci University. In 1997, I dealt with Sabanci University project. I can say that it was one of the most valuable projects of my life. An incredible architecture… In the meaning of both work of art and construction technology… I worked as a technical manager for 4 years. Then, I passed to Kasaba project as Assistant Manager of the project. And I learned real estate projects in there. I have always been close to computer and software. I am a person who believes in technology so much. I wrote a computer program in 1997. To my surprise, I have done an Enterprise Resource Planning. After that, I was transferred to the central office as Business Development Executive. My trips have begun in that time.
I guess, your work with the King of Jordan took place in those times…
Yes. We built a royal academy for the King of Jordan, Abdullah, in 2003. It was a cut below Sabanci University. It’s still very famous in the Middle East. The children of dignitaries study there. Its name is King’s Academy. I became General Manager and board member by the end of 2005. I guess, I was the youngest board member in the market. I was 34 then.
Well, do you define yourself as an engineer or a businessman?
I can never put away engineering. It’s my spinal cord. But more than a businessman, I define myself as Project Manager with the Project Management education that I have received after engineering. Because project management includes not only engineering but philosophy, psychology, economy and strategic planning. I was giving a speech about multinational strategic planning in Istanbul University. I gave an example of Ataturk again. When the engineering is explained to people by using slide shows, I don’t think that people get the point.
You hold Ataturk dear…
“As of today, Russian Empire is our ally, friend and it should be so. However, one day the Russian Empire will come apart just as the Ottoman Empire had experienced. Our religion, language, race, history and culture shareholder brothers live in that empire. Our part is not to wait for that day but to work on these parameters and bridge the gaps”. I asked who could say this and what can be the time of it. Most of them approached it as history but no one knew those were the words from the Great Speech of Ataturk. He said those by seeing 58 years later. He takes a look at the past, the position in that time and sets a goal pro se. That is also a method of strategic planning and project management. Ataturk said that we should learn positive science. He has written a geometry book in 1938. We know what a triangle or a square is but we don’t know that Ataturk has translated them into Turkish. Otherwise, it would be in an inapprehensible language. He sets a goal, takes an x-ray of the situation that he is in. That’s how the life and companies should be.
What are your passions? Except success, Ataturk and business life…
My children. It’s really a passion. I spend my whole leisure time with them. When my daughter finished the 5th class, I put the atlas of the world in front of her. I said that only you and I will go to wherever you want. We took an incredible Paris holiday. Maybe I had much more fun than her in Disneyland. My daughter had been saying “Daddy, don’t shout, everyone is staring at us”. We watch matches together with my son. Even our seats are definite. He never goes to shave without me.
What is your passion after your children?
I have a passion for animation and technology. Audio and video… I also have a passion for cinema. I love music so much. Music is the only thing that I enjoy when I am all alone by myself.
In the meaning of musician or listener?
Listener… I like Turkish Art Music very much. And I’m a fan of Baris Manco. I had bought Baris Manco CDs when I got my first payment.
What about sports?
I enrolled in all the clubs until now. I am the champion of least going. I always work and travel. When I have time, I walk but again, with my children. I like driving cars. I drive emotional and safe. I also turn on the music. Every destination has its own music for me.
You have an empty day for example. What makes you rest?
Watching movies… I’m a huge fan of Filiz Akin. I remember that I didn’t take the exams at university when there were her movies.
Your daughter is 12.5 and your son is 9 years old. Do they have particular hobbies from now?
My daughter has a passion for fashion design. She has a mannequin, which is used by the tailors, in her room. She continuously designs clothes and styles on them. And also I encourage her. My son is small. He had decided to be a runner during the Olympics. He loves sports very much. Everything can happen at the moment but it seems like he has an interest to engineering. We’ll see…
How is your daily routine?
I generally wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning. But it’s out of consciousness. If I can succeed sleeping, I would like to sleep until 7 o’clock. And I am at work at 8 o’clock. Except that, my routine is to travel.