Dear readers, we hope you enjoyed our first portrait of one of our great guests in Berlin this year. If you haven’t read it already, please check it out. It’s about Oscar-winning director, journalist and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy from Pakistan.
In this second part of our series, we won’t move far on the world map. This time around you will meet the Iranian entrepreneur Nazanin Daneshvar. She is exceptional for multiple reasons! At our event she will talk about Iranian women in the tech industry, cultural glass ceilings, and she will host a Think Tank Academy session on the chances and limits of entrepreneurship in her home country.
Online Business and Entrepreneurship in Iran. Talk about difficult!
Nazanin isn’t just famous for any run-off-the-mill company. She is famous for a highly successful online start-up, in a country like Iran no less. Economically, Iran has had its fair share of problems in the past. There were the far-reaching UN sanctions against the country, for one thing. And also internet censorship has been a problem in Iran for some time now. There are social media crackdowns and almost half of the 500 most important websites in the world are blocked in Iran, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and GooglePlus. Iran basically implemented its own intranet and their online business is isolated from the rest of the world.
Also, let’s not forget the fact that Nazanin is a woman. In Iran, women face many challenges in the labour market, because of the country’s traditional and religious approach towards their roles in the family.
Trying for Change with ideas from abroad
Looking at this situation it is no wonder that Nazanin initially tried to start a business from abroad. After she went to grad school in Tehran she moved to London to work as a developer. After her company had difficulties moving into the Iranian market, however, she moved back. Not alone, mind you, but rather with the idea for her first start-up that should seem familiar now, a couple of years later.
It was the idea for an online grocery store that would deliver food to its customers’ doorsteps. Customers would place an order via app and a truck would visit them with their products. Sounds a bit like Amazon Fresh, doesn’t it? The point is that services like that don’t necessarily exist in Iran and have to be developed by Iranian people themselves. That’s why Nazanin could launch such a start-up there that ultimately failed, because it was too successful. The service started on a small scale but got over 5.000 orders in its first hour.
After that experience Nazanin went abroad again, to Germany, where she came up with the idea for a big success. It is called Takhfifan, which roughly translates to “discount”, and it is one of the biggest start-ups in the Middle East. It has a similar business model to companies like Groupon and gives its users access to good discounts with many Tehran retailers.
After all is said and done, one has to have huge respect for Nazanin’s accomplishment, especially considering the role of women in the Iranian business culture. Today, she is an engaged and active supporter of the Iranian start-up movement, encouraging women to try for a role in leadership. We are very excited to here from Nazanin about her journey at Global Female Leaders 2017, as well as about the Iranian start-up culture in general. These topics should be of interest for many international companies, because Iran’s economy becomes gradually more open to investors and foreign businesses since the UN sanctions against the country were lifted.