The first thing that comes to mind when talking about sanctions is the paralyzing effect it has on local companies and how it’s meant to cripple an economy on multiple levels. Because of the isolation created by the outside, international companies don’t have the privilege to enter the vast and untouched tech market of Iran.
But aside from all the assumptions it did turn out as an extraordinary advantage for Local startups in Iran in many cases. Here are some examples of companies that flourished and thrived because of the sanctions opposed from the outside
Digikala – substitute of Amazon
The market dominant e-commerce giant Digikala is the well known Iranian substitute to Amazon. Digikala started its reign with selling digital products like digital cameras, laptops, phones and more. Now you can find anything you need from perfumes, tablets to chainsaws. 5040, Chare, Bamilo are digikala’s competitors in Iran.
looking at the high number of android users in Iran, one would think how this massive number of android users download their apps while Google Play is banned for Iranian users. That is were Cafe Bazaar took control of the android app market by launching their market place consisting not only the viral apps you see in Google Play, but local Iranian apps making a room for Iranian startups and app developers to launch their product in their homeland. Myket, Kandoo and few others are also android app market platform in Iran.
Sibche, Seebstore, Appget, Sibapp
Google Play is not the only app service that can’t provide service in Iran. Apple’s App Store at the other hand is facing the same issue. These companies provide features such as selling the iOS apps in Iranian Rial Currency with local Iranian payment solutions. Some of these iOS app market places also host Iranian apps for their Iranian users.
Beeptunes is the leading Music Market place in Iran that fills in for the absent iTunes or Google Play Music and other online music stores. Beeptunes provides various payment options including using local debit cards.
Netbarg & Takhfifan
Netbarg and Takhfifan are the two viral group buying websites in Iran with thousands of new daily users and counting. Groupon being cut off from the fresh market of Iran has given these 2 companies the opportunity to explore and expand the market in much smarter and easier way.
One of the key lacking services in Iran which sanctions has also a big role in, is online money transaction and online payment systems. Iran being cut off from the international banks, the use of credit cards in Iran is completely nonexistent. Zarinpal is here to take Paypal’s empty place in Iran providing payment portals for companies and online buyers.
The newly launched and fast growing Navaar has established its foothold despite the absence of the big guy Audible. Navaar is one of the key players in the farsi Audiobook industry in Iran. Navaar helps the publishers create high quality audiobooks and ultimately sell their product in Navaar’s audiobook market.
Sabavision, Anetwork, Clickyab
The fierce competition of online advertising has flourished with the big guys like google Adwords and bing ads out of the stage. Well known Ad networks such as Sabavision and Anetwork are well known in this market.
Looking in depth, one of the main reasons why sanctions helped many local tech companies in Iran grow, leads down to banned payment systems and online transaction methods. This was the golden gate for Iranian entrepreneurs to create their localized version of these business models with in-house solutions for payment and other transaction methods.
Companies and startups were forced to interact and collaborate with other national companies due to being cut off from the outside, this empowered the infrastructure and other core components of Iran’s tech world, making them ready for the new era where the sanctions are lifted and their competitors and potential partners swarm into Iran.
One of the other benefits of the sanctions on Iran was that it helped spread the culture of entrepreneurship in Iran. Forcing aspiring entrepreneurs to take action in their own hands and build startups according to local needs while the international big guys are far in the shadow.
Being cut off from the outside competitors has bought time for these startups to grow in a playground with easy competitors, making them ready for the time were the doors to Iran’s market open to the world.