|We did it
My e-business adventure in Iran
By Shariar Shahabi
February 27, 2002
A year and a half ago my wife and I decided to pack our bags and head on a journey
to a country that I had left behind some 16 years ago. I decided to forego a comfortable
life in the West, Canada to be exact, for a sense of responsibility that had brewed
in me since my early twenties, and what a feeling it turned out to be.
Having graduated from university (SFU.), acquired the necessary Internet technology
and business skills from some of the industries best, and with some financial resources
I was on my way to Iran.
The night we arrived at Mehrabad airport I was nervous, very nervous actually, because
I wasn't sure if I had made the right decision. But in a matter of days thing started
to fall in place, I met some good people, pulled together of a team of software developers
from Tehran's Sharif University, rented a lab and started work. And I should mention
that I had to "purchase" my military service too, but that's a whole different
story (wouldn't recommend the process to my worst enemy).
Anyway, the mission statement for the company was simple: "DLmaker.com
shall provide a professionally designed template web office (website) in which subscribers
(mobile working professional and or small company) can register into the e-office
space in minutes and access all the necessary tools they would require to better
promote their products and services in real-time. Cost only $4:00 per year."
The idea was to offer all the e-business and communication tools such as P2P chat
meeting, online presentation, three way access file cabinet system, product manager,
two way scheduling, and other must have features in a single portal page and over
the Internet in the form of an ASP, so the office would be accessible where ever
the user went be it in Iran or overseas.
Why this idea? The answer is simple: because renting a physical office (or maghaazeh)
for a young professional in Iran is virtually impossible and in such a devastating
economic climate the risks are so high to deter even the most savvy business people
in Iran. This way the investment is held at to a PC, an Internet connection and an
e-office. The young entrepreneur has really nothing to loose.
So, the day I started to build on this idea the challenge was four fold,
a) Finding skilled professionals with international experience in operations (to
date I have not found suitable candidates),
b) To motivate the development team to believe that they are part of a bigger global
economic picture and not some "melli project" which is a term commonly
thrown around by Iranian technocrats when wanting to drain government funds,
c) To get a standard reliable internet connection for our development team to communicate
with the servers overseas (Iran has serious telecommunication and infrastructure
c) Make sure that our senior technical team had visas on time for when they were
required to travel.
Most of these issues were resolved, over time. Humility: If you demonstrate that
you know more than the average so-called expert, you will become an outcast. Management:
Without micro managing the business yourself no one really knows how to be productive
in stride, with global competitive standards.
Well to make a long story short, under adverse conditions and a year later we did
it. In January 2002 and having signed a cooperation contract with the Chamber of
Commerce of Iran we where able to bring the vision to reality. In our first month
of operation we have close to 250 paying users and growing rapidly.
I decided to write about my business venture primarily for two reasons,
a) To let my team know that I'm very proud of the work they have done, and
b) To demonstrate that if we invest in talented people
no matter where they are, individually and more so collectively we can enhance the
quality of life for ourselves and our surrounding.
My sense of responsibility lead me to Iran at the age of 29. I'm glad to have had
the courage to return and I'm glad to be doing something with a positive outcome.
To all my Iranian compatriots living overseas who would like to start a business
or work on a joint business in or with Iran but don't quite know where to start feel
free to send me an email or visit me at my e-office. Having gone thought the ups
and downs, I would be glad to help out in any way I can.
With best wishes and ever increasing success.