We spoke to Ömer Karışman of Kozmos Tekstil about the textile industry and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ömer Karışman: Unfortunately, the pandemic has been rough in Turkey, where our main operations are. We’ve had COVID positive among our friends, colleagues’ families and unfortunately also suffered some losses. It is a very sneaky disease, and sadly people are not paying enough attention to their and others’ protection. The only way we can overcome the pandemic is by acting against it together. I hope you and your family are all safe and well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Kozmos Tekstil.
Ömer Karışman: I am working as the CTO in charge of our company’s technology-related decisions, including both online and offline products. I joined Kozmos about 3 years ago when they have started ramping up their business. They have a long history in the textile industry, mainly in Turkey and Russia. About five years ago, the company decided to expand to the US market with shower curtains. After that, they rapidly innovated new products and reached about 30 different home textile and decoration products. This was 3 years ago.
How does Kozmos Tekstil innovate?
Ömer Karışman: Today, we have about 250 different textile products in various categories, all digitally printed with 250.000+ unique designs. We have a great research team looking for new products that suit our factory capabilities. We also create new designs based on the online shopping trends tracking 100+ categories. We let the market drive our research and development. We answer customers’ needs and wants rather than trying to sell them what we have built.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ömer Karışman: The first few months of the pandemic was really hard. On the surface, the e-commerce business boomed. We saw a huge spike in online orders. We were partly caught off-guard since we were digitalizing our logistics operations. This magnified every little error and problem we were trying to fix. Since we are an international company, we were also tackled by having less flight cargo options available. This narrowed our operating window tremendously. Every little mistake that was made was only coming to light after weeks. Our factory and HQ teams had to make big sacrifices working overtime, sometimes almost doubling what was usual. Gladly in this crisis, we have completed our digitalization, and every single order made its way to our customers. Some late some on time. To this day, we are still dealing with high logistics costs due to the reduced number of flights and destinations.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ömer Karışman: One of the hardest decisions we faced was when to send everyone into the isolation and when to bring people back to the office. Since we are a manufacturing company producing physical goods, the presence of blue-collar was essential. It was not exactly the same for the office employees, but certain teams had to operate in the office. We followed the global news about the pandemic very closely and were one of the first companies to send non-essential personnel home. Thankfully we were already operating by using remote working tools. Our transition to homes was flawless. Nevertheless, it was a hard call. Digitalization is a must for every company both in the office and production.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Kozmos Tekstil in the future?
Ömer Karışman: Personally, I prefer meditation. I have been using guided meditation tools to clear my mind and have a better focus. We try to keep the spirits up with small, socially distanced events, small gifts, and treats for all the employees. It is safe to say we are on a good track, and we will be expanding our business and increasing our sales in 2021
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ömer Karışman: One of the closest competitors to what we do is Jeff Bezos’ society6.com, albeit not exactly the same business model. Other than that, we are challenged by category-specific rivals, challenging us to create the best products at the best prices. Having a large product portfolio and even a larger design catalog makes us unique, and we intend to keep it like that.
Your final thoughts?
Ömer Karışman: I would like to send my best wishes and prayers to anyone affected by the pandemic in any way. First, come health and safety. COVID-19 is a gnarly virus, and the more time this situation continues more of a chance it might mutate more and harder to defeat. I wish no one would have to deal with the loss of people close to them like I did. Wear a mask, keep a distance, stay home if you can.