Can up-and-coming local startups compete with well-known international tech companies? In this article we’re going to take a look at Dunro, an Iranian location-based app similar to Foursquare.

Last February, Foursquare was listed among Fast Company’s 2017 Most Innovative Companies. After 8 years since its initial launch, Foursquare currently has 45 million users across the world. In 2014, this location-based app became a popular choice for users that wanted to get tips and recommendations by other users on the platform. During this time the app had a breakthrough and became one of the most popular apps in many countries. In Iran, this app became recognized by coffee addicts and foodies looking for the best places in their cities to meet their desires.

 

Local VS. International

Although Foursquare is a popular app among some groups in the Iranian society—mostly young, hip and tech savvy users—the app is still struggling to find its way into the heart of millions of other users in the country. You might believe that money can solve all the challenges when entering a new market, but that’s not precisely true. Up until now, Foursquare hasn’t spent a dime in Iran, but hypothetically speaking, what would happen if this American company actually decides to officially operate in Iran? Could this app take over the market with a large marketing budget? What would happen to similar local apps like Foursquare in Iran?

To answer these questions we spoke with Parsa Janbaz, CEO of Dunro, an Iranian search-and-discovery app which helps users not only find places and businesses but also service providers in various fields. When asking Parsa about Dunro’s distinctive advantage in comparison to Foursquare in Iran, he gave us four reasons. “Firstly, Foursquare is only known for travel and leisure categories, whereas in Dunro you can find almost anything. From finding businesses, experts and doctors to even ATM machines across the city or even some vendors which have a fixed place,” said Parsa. “We are also the first choice for businesses. Iranian businesses can’t run a campaign with Foursquare but we are currently doing this on our platform,” he added.

The third reason he told us was that unlike Dunro, Foursquare does not support the Persian language. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why this app is only used by specific groups of people in Iran. And lastly, Dunro rewards users for their activities with businesses in the city, something that only a local competitor could do. Some of the local startups which Dunro is collaborating with are Mehrabane, NetBarg, Snapp and Cinematicket.

 

Local Vs. Local

Dunro’s core competency in the Iranian market is its 500k registered businesses and services. Dunro (previously known as iBartar) was founded in 2014 and has since been supported by its parent company, PeykeBartar, a media group based in Tehran. “We have a 17-year-old background in working with businesses through our partnership with our parent company, PeykeBartar. So we can say our knowledge in this market is way ahead of the other players,” said Parsa.

Ever since the release of Dunro’s new version of the app about two months ago, its user base has increased by 50%. A new feature of the app to further engage users is “Dunro’s Marketplace”. In this new update users are able to gain virtual coins for their activities on Dunro (such as sharing tips, giving ratings, inviting friends) which they can later spend on coupons in the marketplace. Until now 7 million coins have been gained by users and over 4 thousand coupons have been bought.

 

Apple’s Policies Towards Iranian Apps

Currently, a bigger challenge for the Iranian tech community is the policies which Apple and Google are taking towards Iranian apps. Last month, Apple pulled some of the Iranian apps from its store and rejected updates from them. A couple of days ago the same happened with two of the most popular ride-hailing apps but this time on Google Play.

“The main issue is that it has taken away our focus from what is really important. Finding a replacement has been a hassle for us. We are constantly working on new features for our app, but we can’t release the new updates for a big proportion of our users,” said Parsa Janbaz.

By observing Dunro, it seems that a big advantage of local startups compared to international giants is their understanding of the market and knowing the users’ needs. Stay tuned as we elaborate more on this on TechRasa’s upcoming articles.

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