Iran Pulsates with an Entrepreneurial Spirit

As economic sanctions are lifted, Iran abounds in new opportunities, which is a cause of joy for Iranian Aalto EMBA students.

Aalto Executive MBA participants from Tehran listening the guidelines of Strawberry Challenge in their module in Finland. Vahid Giahi on the right.

Heidi Hammarsten, 27.04.2016

The students are already well versed in international business and entrepreneurship.

As economic sanctions are lifted, Iran abounds in new opportunities, which is a cause of joy for Iranian Aalto EMBA students. The students are already well versed in international business and entrepreneurship.

Despite the Iranian economy suffering from sanctions due to its nuclear weapons program, the country’s economy has not remained in total isolation. This is something that becomes evident when listening to students taking part in the Aalto EE EMBA program in Iran. They visited Finland as part of their entrepreneurship module.

“There haven’t been any concrete changes yet, but people are hopeful. The change will be significant also politically,” states Vahid Giahi, who works as a project director for Butane Industrial. Butane is a manufacturer of household boiler, water heaters, and radiators.

“Now that borders are open and foreign companies enter the country, hopefully competition will become healthier and transparency will increase. Before, some external companies, such as middle banks out of Iran, exploited the sanctions, which made running a business more expensive for us. Newcomers also bring in new expertise and know-how.”

Fastest Already Signing Deals

According to Giahi, companies from Germany, Italy and Turkey, for instance, have already held initial negotiations over the last six months, and the fastest have signed partnership agreements.

“The change is rapidly reflected in the government-controlled oil, gas and construction industries, sources of government income. But I see no reason why things should progress at a slower pace in the private sector. The first ones in the country are the winners.”

Giahi worked in Software Industry in Canada for a decade before returning to Iran three years ago, before sanctions were being lifted. Already then, he noticed more potential for establishing business in the country.

At Butane, Giahi is responsible for the company’s internal projects and focused on new ventures that the company is considering to establish. The Aalto EMBA program suited him

 perfectly both as far as the content and timing were concerned.

“We’ve just been discussing internal venture business on the program – how to take hold of opportunities, acquire funding, validate the project and ensure profitability.”

HR Services on a Global Level

Sonia Shafiei had already completed an MBA degree with a focus on HR Function in International Companies before ending up as an entrepreneur in HR. She is a partner in a company of eight people, which specializes in headhunting and training university graduates in skills required by international companies. 

“Iran needs a great deal of educated labor force that have both technical and soft skills now that business is becoming more international. Recent graduates don’t really understand business compeletely, and we are there to fill the gap between the academic world and corporate needs,” Shafiei explains.

Clients have already included global companies like Nestle, and as demand rises, also Shafiei’s own ambitions have grown. She points out that the role of female directors in local companies is not well defined, whereas global employers strive for equality and diversity.

“I’m not interested in only offering local services for the Iranian market, but want to concentrate on services of an international level instead. I want to partner and reach the level of big global HR companies.”

This international perspective is something Shafiei decided to pursue also from her new EMBA degree. The Aalto EMBA program is the first internationally recognized program in Iran. The studies are organized in collaboration with the Iranian Business School.

“I was thinking about a doctoral in England, but then I heard about Aalto EE last year.”

Exploring New Opportunities 

Mona Mohammadian initially studied fashion design and founded her own company. The industry proved tough due to stringent restrictions. During those years, her interest in marketing and marketing communication grew and she decided to continue studying in that field. As a marketing communication strategist and planner, she gained experiences working with different businesses including the biggest online store in Iran.

Also Mohammadian had decided to update her skills by studying abroad before hearing about the possibilities offered by Aalto EE and IBS.

“I realized I could study topics that were of interest to me at a Triple Crown Accredited business school in Iran. In addition to the content, the networking potential made an impression and a huge difference. Although World Wide Web connected the global village, but personal contacts continue to be another dimension altogether.”

Mohammadian is planning to start her own business and she is assessing her ideas.

 “Having the desire to explore new opportunities, many ideas have come to my mind during my studies.”

According to Mohammadian, the EMBA program offered by Aalto EE teaches students to view business endeavors including start up with more ambition.

 “We’ve been told that there’s a great deal of interest in Finland to tie business links with Iran. I see that as good news that creates hope.”

Read more about Aalto Executive MBA Program in Tehran, Iran.

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