Esra Arslanbaş Kaynak: Redefining Automotive Industry with Innovation in Motion

Esra Arslanbaş Kaynak CMO Otokoç Otomotiv

The automotive industry is known for being one of the most competitive markets in the world due to several factors. The fundamental that drives the market is its highly fragmented environment, with a large number of players offering a wide range of products and services.

This means that competition is fierce as companies try to differentiate themselves from their competitors in order to attract customers, making marketing a complex task. To stand out, companies need a strong marketing strategy and a leader who can execute it.

This is where one individual stands out among the rest – Esra Arslanbaş Kaynak, a visionary CMO who has been disrupting the industry with her innovative approach to marketing. The ability to understand consumer behavior and market trends has led to unprecedented success for Otokoç Otomotiv, the company she represents.

Esra Arslanbaş Kaynak is a marketing genius who has been instrumental in the growth and success of a leading automotive retailing company. With years of experience in the industry, she has helped the company navigate through challenges and overcome obstacles. Her leadership has been critical in achieving the company’s goals and positioning it as a leader in the market.

Let’s delve into Esra’s role in transforming Otokoç Otomotiv’s marketing strategies:

Career Trajectory

Esra describes different roles in life-wife, mother of twin boys, Marketing and Digital Platforms Leader of Otokoç Otomotiv for ten years, responsible for 8 countries and Product Owner of Agile Transformation – Organization Design Team since July 2021.

As an experienced marketing professional with a high reputation and history of working in the automotive and car rental industry and skilled in marketing management and strategy, she has implemented many e-Commerce, Customer Experience, Digital Marketing and Digital Platforms, Multi Brand Management, CRM, Omnichannel and Corporate Social Responsibility projects during her career path.

She believes in the importance of conveying her experience in e-commerce, digital platforms, customer experience, brand, PR, channel, data management, CRM, loyalty, omnichannel, digital communication, and agile transformation. Esra possesses a unique stance and character with a long road ahead in life and being a lifelong learner, she is eager to learn. The company and network feed her innovative and creative edge.

The perception that the automotive industry is among the male-dominated sectors is, unfortunately, quite common. As a woman who has worked in the sector for years, there have been difficulties failing to discourage her; rather, it fueled her determination to work and be a role model.

Manifesting the Mission and Vision.

Otokoç Otomotiv, a well-established company that started the automotive history in Turkey, has been offering new services and practices that are developed to simplify consumers’ lives and has been setting the standards in the sector since 1928, placing customer satisfaction at the core of its business.

We work with the mission of creating value for all stakeholders in the world of mobility and we are shaping our future today with the vision of being a global and leading reference point that develops innovative mobility solutions,” shares Esra.

Organization Ethos and Standards in Practice

Presently positioned as Turkey’s leading mobility company operating in three primary areas under Otokoç Otomotiv retail, car rental and car sharing.

The company offers services to our customers in 9 countries, at 400 points and with more than 3.000 colleagues. Besides Turkey, we operate in Ukraine, Hungary, Greece, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Northern Cyprus and Northern Iraq. We are the industry leader in car rental in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and the long-term car rental industry leader in Greece and Georgia.

Innovation, Transparency, Sincerity, Cooperation and Development are the core values of Otokoç Otomotiv.

With these values, sustainable steps both inside and outside the organization are being undertaken.

The corporate social responsibility approach acts as a bridge between individual and collective activism, initiating a long-term project on gender equality that is designed and developed collectively.

By adopting the awareness that professions have no gender, the project “Glass Ceiling is for Cars Only”, is commenced referring to the glass-ceiling metaphor through the sunroof, as employees of a company believed to attain current successful position by evaluating the intelligence, creativity, strength, and hard work of women employees. It is extremely important to draw attention to the issue and to take resounding steps in this direction.

Explaining this instance, Esra said, “Hence, we did not set out on our own and put effort to spread our sensitivity to the public and provide informative content to increase our employees’ awareness level.”

Adding to this, she says, “We told hundreds of people that there is no “Glass Ceiling” in the Metaverse universe, by hosting the “Glass Ceiling is for Cars Only” sessions at the Metaverse meeting of an important online summit.”

Aiming to draw attention to gender-based judgments and the problem of inequality in all areas of life is based on human-centered understanding. The aim of this project is to help women realize and embrace their power in removing invisible barriers, changing the world, transforming it, and creating a sustainable future, and to be supported by all social layers.

Harnessing Technology

Otokoç Otomotiv, Turkey’s leading mobility company, puts emphasis on being involved in projects possessing technology at the center. With innovation and digitalization strategies, they aim to keep the satisfaction of clients at the highest level by providing innovative solutions tailored according to their needs.

Besides providing customers with the opportunity to make reservations and payments and to sign documents remotely and digitally, they also transferred the internal information sharing and reporting processes to the digital platforms upholding a faster experience. Concentration is not limited to the transfer of sales to online platforms, and we also continue to work on the digitization of all processes.

Preparing Otokoç Otomotiv for the future, implementing changes like the rise of autonomous and electric vehicles, decrease in vehicle sales, rapid increase in car rental and sharing and the revision of after-sales services.

Taking a step into the world of the future with Web 3.0, Otokoç Otomotiv is renewing and developing itself by offering users and brands a multi-layered experience. In addition, the online market, e-commerce and even virtual commerce will grow rapidly by dominating the total market and transforming business areas. So having an agile e-commerce structure that covers all digital platforms (nearly 30) and utilizing them as a sales channel with omnichannel, AI, RPA and big data integration that supports a “one-customer-view” and mobility vision.

Influencing Marketing Sector

Developing agility and adaptability skills that respond to the changes has become vital for institutions that hope to persist into the future. As in the case of Metaverse, following the trendsetting ecosystems and real-time adaptation is imperative. The touchstones of Esra’s career can be summed up as follows:

  • To keep the vision of the company alive within its target group and stakeholders
  • To develop digital platforms with high e-commerce competence, to act as a big team with the stakeholders
  • To inspire and to be a pioneer in future technologies and trends
  • To encourage the team for the better, to manage multiple brands, to develop new products, services, and brands,
  • To put the customer in the center with a 360-degree view of marketing.

At this point, she is leading the agile transformation of the marketing department.

On a personal level, using the competencies gained in agile transformation methodology, such as having an MVP mindset and giving importance to time-to-market while focusing on achieving concrete output, have great contributions to effectuating digital platform projects that have strategic importance for the company,

She commented, “I lead or act as a sponsor in this process.”

Advancing Marketing with the Digital Era

With the difference created by digitization, the organization is continuing to work on service quality meticulously by developing new implementations. Understanding rapid changes in customer needs and expectations support actions that require adaptation.

In this way, we have achieved significant progress in our digital transformation KPIs. We increased our revenues from digital channels and our customer satisfaction by improving the user experience through our digital products. With the digital transformation projects carried out in line with our operational excellence goals, the company established transparency interconnection throughout our supply chain processes.

Talking about being adaptable, Esra stated, “We have followed the developments for a long time with the mindset of how we could integrate as a pioneer in parallel with the genuinely sustainable experience with our brands, and we have created this work ultimately, which is a product of our Web 3.0 vision and is first of its kind in the world in many areas.”

She also added, “Beyond our presence in the Metaverse and developing NFTs, we are happy to be at the beginning of our work concerning genuine communities and benefiting them in every sense.”

As Otokoç Otomotiv, defining the standards in the sector for 95 years with the steps we have taken in line with our pioneering vision, we consider innovation, digital transformation and their sustainability among our priorities.

Re-modelling Marketing Sector

Marketing is the gateway of companies to the outside world and the most powerful muscle that allows them to express themselves most accurately. Marketing strategy and company strategy are integral parts, and companies should benefit more from marketing outputs when developing new products and services. “I think that each of them can be sold through the developed online platforms,” she said.

Esra is interested in designing a process and platform that can be adapted to suit all sectors and brands. A Consumer-centric process and working order should be established, and the agency network should join forces with all the stakeholders to accomplish this.

Developing technology requires adaptation in every sense. At this point, Otokoç Otomotiv is developing projects featuring many firsts in this new world with a sustainable Web 3.0 strategy and technology-oriented vision.

Agile transformation adheres to strategic importance, primarily cultural change. The agile approach makes it possible to move away from hierarchy by disseminating autonomy while positioning the customer as the core of the business model. While crafting the agile transformation process-‘The Agile Within Us’ is the prime focus area. Proceeding by linking importance to two topics-

“Making every step, we take transparent and developing it through a common mindset.” Esra quoted.

The continued efforts to ensure that processes are sustainable and embraced by everyone in every process by maintaining transparency. This has been ongoing since the establishment of the company for all the stakeholders.

“In this context, we are breaking down the walls in parallel with our transforming organizational structure,” Esra asserted.


Monitoring customer needs and expectations is crucial in accordance with technological advances recently. This will allow its renewal and restructuring. Effective use of digital tools and contactless services has multiplied to facilitate meeting customer needs.

In support of this, Esra said, “We are working to position and protect brand awareness and reputation accurately. We undertake pioneering and innovative practices to provide the best customer experience in all areas we operate.”

The ongoing work on voice analytics, chatbot, and metaverse technologies, along with investing in digital transformation to further integrate our sales channels and omnichannel capabilities. As an iconic leader, Esra’s role in the company’s journey to becoming an agile organization together is exceptional.

The Guiding Light

She recommends that entrepreneurs in a wide range of areas, including marketing, trust themselves and not give up trying easily. Business life is a long-term journey that is carried out together with people and also contains the mission of serving humanity are her thoughts.

Focusing on strengthening one’s strengths is crucial.  Demonstrating commercial awareness, customer-oriented perspective, strategical thinking and prioritizing, directing and being responsible for results, developing team, motivating and creating impact, coaching approaches, cooperation with other teams, ownership, and dissemination of vision, conceptual thinking, being productive and open to innovation are the most important ones for Esra.

About the CMO, in her own words

Besides my professional career, I am a member of the Women’s Commission of the Turkish Automobile Sports Federation, which works to increase the presence and participation of women in motorsports.

I am also among the volunteers of the Hearing-Impaired Education Activities Association (IEEF) and member of; the New Generation Community, C-Level Club of Marketing Turkey, Capital CMO Club, Global Marketing CMO Club, PWN Professional Women Network and the Metaverse Association.

As a person who enjoys reading, learning and research, I started the Koç University MBA master’s program. I also follow Metaverse and future technologies with great interest and enthusiasm.

I believe that there are many similarities between octopuses and myself. The most unusual and distinctive-looking marine animals you might come upon are octopuses. They have eight arms, three hearts and more than 1.000 suction cups. Its shape is described as “extraterrestrial,” and its lengths could range from 3 centimeters to 9 meters.

They strive to be inclusive, have a fully developed neural system, and are capable of experiencing both happiness and pain. They are the most intellectual invertebrate, according to some. If they lose limbs, they regenerate new ones. They utilize seashells to adorn their homes. They easily adapt. Octopuses have distinct personalities, are resourceful, and can open jars. They have evolved past their habits.

People around me often comment that I am “out of this world” due to my philosophy, personal style, public presence and leadership attitude, which are considered unique; despite not having eight limbs and three hearts like an octopus, she makes an effort to reach out to everyone and include them by being respectful and courteous. She tries to produce outcomes that go far beyond my industry. She works to balance her actions between purpose, outcome, logic and emotion. Her left and right brains function in harmony, and she can write with both hands.

In my pursuit of benevolence, I place value on effort. To outperform myself, I became dedicated to self-development. After creating the vision and plan, I effectively execute it, being productive in a variety of ways.

I would like to end with Warren Buffett, whom I deeply appreciate and find guidance in. He says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” If you keep this in mind, you will act accordingly. Sustainability is very important, we need to adapt to the new world, especially at difficult times, but at the same time, we must not forget our roots. I believe that it is the approach that makes our work reputable. Reputation equals repetition with persistence.”