July 8, 2022

Mohammad is like a brother from another mother

Meet the founders of İkiz Gen Mühendislik (Twin Gene Engineering), who are the embodiment of a successful business between host communities and refugees in Turkey. Zakkour and Gündüz established their engineering company in 2018 and benefited from SPARK’s programme to grow and expand.

Mohammad Wael Zakkour came to Turkey from Syria in hopes of starting his own business. When he was met with Emrullah Gündüz of Turkey, those hopes came true as Twin Gene Engineering was born.

The Syrian and Turkish founders built incubators for babies and other electronic medical solutions, solar-powered devices, embedded software systems, as well as electronic card designs. Additionally, they supported the battle against COVID-19 by building ventilators.

For a number of years, Turkey has attracted migrants and refugees fleeing from crisis and unstable situations. Its residents come from all over the world — but Syrians have a significant share of refugees in the country; according to UNHCR, 65% of all the registered refugees in Turkey are Syrians. Gaziantep, in particular, is home to almost half a million Syrian refugees due to its geographical location. On Gaziantep’s streets, there are many Syrian-run stores like restaurants, travel agencies and barber shops, with the advertising on the windows written in Arabic as well as Turkish.

While the migration of Syrians to Turkey can pose issues, Emrullah and Mohammad can be strong examples of the benefits of the collaboration between refugees and host communities.

Twins by business

Mohammad Zakkour, 33, arrived in Turkey in 2014 due to the Syrian crisis after completing his higher education in Computer Systems Engineering. Upon his arrival in Turkey, he started kicking off his own business in his field of study. His first attempt was in 2015 with one of his Syrian friends, but they failed because they lacked knowledge of Turkish law and regulations.

In 2018, Mohammad met Emrullah in Techno Park at Gaziantep University. Their passion for electronic systems motivated them to exchange their business cards and set up another meeting to discuss their ideas in depth. Their meetings and future plans resulted in the establishment of İkiz Gen Mühendislik (Twin Gene Engineering), a specialised company in electronic card composition and led composition services.

SPARK & QFFD || Syrian and Turkish founders of İkiz Gen Mühendislik

“To me, my partner Mohammad is like a brother from another mother. That is where the name of our company comes from, Twin Gene Engineering,” says Emrullah Gündüz, Co-founder of Twin Gene Engineering.

However, the company, which employs around 15 people, including engineering students, faced financial problems due to the COVID-19 crisis. “The COVID-19 crisis has affected us, just like the rest of the world,” says Zakkour.

In 2021, the entrepreneurial engineers received customised coaching sessions by Qatar Charity, SPARK’s partner under Economic Resilience through COVID-19 programme, financed by the Qatar Fund for Development. They also benefited from the financial grant received to purchase high-standard laptops for designs.

Zakkour and Gündüz in a discussion in their workplace ©2022, SPARK
Emrullah Gündüz set up the printing machines ©2022, SPARK
Zakkour ensures the flow of the printing ©2022, SPARK

Breaking stereotypes

Turkey has been suffering from an ongoing economic crisis since the fall of 2018. The currency devaluation and rampant inflation caused pressure on Turkish citizens and caused growing anti-migrant animosity, which is visible across social media. It is highly overt in Turkish media, including pro-government and opposition outlets, which have led to many hate crimes in recent years. Furthermore, a Member of the European Parliament, Tineke Strik, said in an interview in 2021 that Turkey cannot be considered a safe country for migrants and asylum seekers because it is not bound by the refugee convention.

Nevertheless, good has come out of the arrival of Syrian refugees in Turkey, exhibited by the creation of Twin Gene Engineering. “Mohammad and I always tell people our story, and we always introduce ourselves as twins with the hope of changing the stereotype about refugees and anti-migrant animosity,” concluded Gündüz.

The twins work now to expand their business, and the plan is to establish more manufacturing electronic board lines, especially after the growing orders from EU countries on such products.

“Our long-term goal is to develop our products and present these to the markets outside Turkey. We are targeting Europe and USA,” says Gündüz.