Improving the Retail
The software developed by Vispera paves the way for compensating $1.75 trillion loss in the world.
Prof. Dr. Aytül Erçil, talking about her endeavor Vistek, Artificial Intelligence and Automation Company founded by the end of 90’s says “It was a bit early, by that time there wasn’t enough confidence in the possibility of developing technology in Turkey. General trend was that they were requiring demos from us and after checking the feasibility and price, using them in negotiating with the producers abroad.” In 2001, Erçil became a faculty member of Sabancı University which she describes as an entrepreneurial environment. In 2006, Sabancı University founded Inovent, Turkey’s first technology commercialization incubation company and seed fund, and became a partner of Vistek. Regarding her experiences at Vistek, Erçil says that as academics experienced in projects and prototypes, developing products has been a totally new learning experience.
Vistek’s focus was the production of vision technologies and utilisation of this technology in quality control automation. Trough 6 cameras, their software has been able to sort out the defective drinking glasses on a production line of 200 glasses per minute. In 2009, German Isra Vision ranked first in Europe and third globally in the field of machine vision, wanted to form a partnership with Vistek. Erçil says “We have captured the defects that a German company with 10 years of experience has not. Their condition was to acquire the total shares after 4 years.” At the end of 2013, Erçil sold Vistek to Isra however the DNA’s of Vistek, a small scale agile dynamic company and Isra, a large corporate one did not harmonise in speed of decision making. As a result, the R&D team departed while Erçil stayed another year to form a new team and deliver the company to the new owners.
A year ago, Erçil co-founded Vispera with Dr. Ceyhun Burak Akgül. The company takes its name from the words "vision" and "perakende"(retail) and it develops artificial intelligence based vision technologies for retail. There are 350 thousand retailers and 40-50 thousand different types of products in Turkey. In order, to have a higher retail potential, a product needs to appear on the shelf and comply with the display plan named planogram. If the shelf space, that the companies acquire paying a special price does not comply with the planogram that has been agreed upon, the producers’ turnover declines around 8 percent (refers to $1,75 trillion global loss). Also, the shelf condition is crucial for the competition. Up until now, it has been determined by the teams and reported to the producer. Now, Vispera can achieve this through a camera or a robot. Erçil, says “This really is a difficult problem for artificial intelligence. However, it is a learning system. We are developing our own algorithms and the performance is improving as we keep collecting data.” Vispera, started to work with Ülker, Unilever and Coco Cola both in Turkey and globally. Ipsos has chosen Vispera as its global partner regarding 90 countries. Erçil says that as a company being founded with a small endorsement, she is expecting a fast growth from Vispera starting next year. Obviously, her past experiences are the guarantee of her words.
Translated from an article published in the Forbes, October 2017 issue.