Aug 27, 2019, 3:33 PM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83454076
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Iranian startups offer opportunities to boost domestic economy

Tehran, August 27, IRNA - Reinforcing Internet-based businesses by President Hassan Rouhani’s “government of prudence and hope” has somehow helped improve national economy. Hence, government officials need to take steps in expanding such businesses through providing financial resources.

The Administration of President Rouhani has seriously paid heed to startup companies, believing that knowledge-based firms give the Islamic Republic the option to develop a new business system. Government officials have time and again spoken of startups development as a way to resolve economic problems and eradicate unemployment. President Rouhani was quoted as telling his cabinet ministers that they should use the startups and their capabilities in order to resolve their issues. 

The past decade in Iran has witnessed a surge in the number of startups, larger Internet companies, and digital-service providers.

While the Administration of US President Donald Trump seeks to drive Iran into an isolated outcast, the tech-savvy Iranians are already turning Iran, a country of 80 million people, into a thriving market ripe with great opportunities.

Owing to the impact of the US sanctions, Iranians are often left to their own devices when it comes to Internet services. Amid the country’s rapid digitization and the fact that over 62 percent of all households were connected to the Internet as of March 2017 - a staggering leap from 21 percent in 2013 - there is clearly increasing demand. 

Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari leads government policy to encourage establishment of private startup firms as part of a strategy to reduce Iran's reliance on revenues from oil exports.

The government set up Pardis Technology Park (PTP), 20 kilometers northeast of the capital Tehran, in 2005. Located at the foot of the Alborz range of mountains in an area covering 38 hectares of land, the PTP was created to promote the establishment of knowledge-based businesses. Now, it covers 60 hectares of land and is expandable to 1,000 hectares. One of PTP’s responsibilities is to create a viable technology sector by strengthening ties between universities and industry as a smart way to engage the educated elite and pave the way for commercialization of ideas pursued by research units stationed at the PTP.

There are now 258 knowledge-based units in various fields stationed at the PTP, according to PTP chief Mahdi Saffarinia. He has called PTP the biggest startup campus in Western Asia, saying there is no other place in this region where one can find so many startups under the same roof.

Sattari has repeatedly clarified that his priority is to encourage innovation, and one way of achieving that is to link industry and universities, and allocate space for privately-owned startup accelerators. He announced at an event in April that Iranian startups had generated 600 trillion rials ($7.5 billion) in the year ending March 20, 2018. 

The success of Iranian startups can be partly attributed to the economic sanctions that prevent the expansion of Western tech companies and platforms. In some ways, this has proved helpful to local startups, which face little competition from established companies.

Among the fastest-growing firms in the digital transformation is Snapp, a popular ride-hailing app. It’s an equivalent of Uber. DigiKala is the Iranian version of Amazon. It’s the biggest e-commerce business and a good example of how startup companies are flourishing in the country.

Having 22 UNESCO-registered world heritage sites, Iran is widely known as “one of the top 10” countries in the world in terms of historical, natural, climatic and cultural attractions. So, it seeks to use startups in this field to promote the industry.

Felexa.com is a good example of a social media platform in the field of tourism. It provides useful information to tourists visiting Iran, specifically information on the country’s tourist attractions all around the country. The website calls itself “a comprehensive information bank of Iran’s tourism attractions.” Since the information is updated by locals and tourists, felexa believes the information is always up-to-date.

Based on rankings from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, Iran is ranked 23 in terms of startups, which is almost on par with Australia and China.

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