Our impact, their voices

Entrepreneurship has no boundaries

News | 15 September 2023
© Kıvanç Özvardar / ILO
Mücahit Akıl is a Syrian entrepreneur, he was 23 when he was forced to flee the war in Syria in 2012. He had finished his computer engineering studies and came first to Gaziantep, Türkiye from Aleppo. Motivated and enthusiastic, he started several new businesses, one after another in this new country for him, with a big spirit of courage and ambition.

“I had a software company in Syria as a computer engineer, where I had a network of clients, then I continued this job in Türkiye, and moved to İstanbul. When I started from scratch, I faced several challenges to learn how to live in the country and did not want others to live through the same things” he says.

With this thought, Mücahit developed several applications. One of them is called “Ghortbtna”, which means “our foreign land” in Arabic. It is an application where refugees can find all information about the laws, rules, work opportunities, all information for them to ease their daily lives. The application has been downloaded by thousands of refugees and in 2015, Google choose this application as the best application for refugees in the world. The application became increasingly popular and in 2016, Turkish telecommunication company Türk Telekom made a sponsorship agreement with Mücahit’s start-up company.

He then established another business named “Go Global”. It is a commercial kitchen space that provides food companies the facilities and services to prepare - or sell- menu recipes for delivery and takeout. In the first 8 months Go Global received over 25,000 orders.

He also set up another application for translation services as one of the most-needed services refugees like him demand. This application was named “Tercüman Gelsin” (Find a Translator), where they matched the translator (supply) and the demand for services reaching over one million translations in a matter of 2 or 3 months.

Mücahit’s companies benefit from the ILO’s Transition to Formality Programme (KIGEP) and his 15 employees’ social security premiums have been reimbursed to keep them in the formal and secure labour market. KIGEP has been implemented with the Social Security Institution of Türkiye, for the last five years and helped over 17,000 workers to feel secure in the labour market, even in difficult financial times such as during COVID.

© Kıvanç Özvardar / ILO
Mücahit works with his colleagues in a common workspace in İstanbul.
In addition, Mücahit expanded his business thanks to the adequate information he received from the ILO’s Information Center (locally “BILMER”), established in İstanbul, on formalization of his businesses as well as training and incentive opportunities.

“In Türkiye, the business culture is different, it is more professional than we had in Syria. Social security is so important in here. We created new positions and kept the existing ones with the KIGEP and BILMER incentives of the ILO. In this way as an employer, I could keep qualified workers, had less costs and served for more people. Within time, with my employees, we learned from each other. This exchange of growing up together is precious”, says Syrian entrepreneur who currently employs 45 employees.