Hot implications of U.S.- Iran relations
By Ramin Tabib
January 16, 1998
So we all watched the interview of sepah-saalaar Khatami, and we are all completely confused as to what on god's earth will happen now. Are we talking about nude Americans on the beaches of Bandar Abbas and Khezer Shahr? How about profile of Iranian Bazaars on the Travel Channel? Will there be a big Coke bottle in Meydoon-e Ferdowsi and a giant electronic screen right in the middle of Meydoon-e Shoosh, like the one in New York's Times Square?
Well, these are all legitimate questions that have kept me up at nights since Khatami's interview with Khanoom-e Amanpour. But my main concern right now is all the new business opportunities that will materialize in the new "open" Iran, and who will be there first to take advantage of them. Here are some the opportunities I see in Iran's future, and since I am not a businessman, I am pitching these ideas for all those Iranian entrepreneurs out there.
One thing that Iran needs is informercials: 30-minute programs, day or night, that sell everything from wrinkle creams to diet drugs to ab-crunchers and even food processors. Being in Iran, one can add a few items such as digital backgammons, electrically-heated head scarves and even the latest in removable, silicon-enhanced beards. There is no Food and Drug Administration in Iran, nor anything similar to a Consumer Advocacy Group, so by the time anybody does anything to thwart the growth of this snake-oil industry, a few decades would have passed and the entrepreneur is safely out of the picture resting on the sands in Cote D'Azure.
If not that, for the smaller entrepreneur I suggest liquor stores. Imagine, a store -- let's call it Araqsaraa -- where one buys all the cigarettes and alcoholic beverages one needs in addition to milk, bread and some other stuff one has to eat in order to live and drink more. Liquor stores can start small, but then mushroom into a large network of inter-linked outlets with the possibility of franchise. Araqsaraa can even go public and sell stocks on the Iranian Stock Exchange.
I also suggest some new magazines or newspapers dealing strictly with the statesmen, actors, writers and their private lives. Every week, a new artist, politician, minister, and even cleric will be exposed, and their private lives will be decimated in front of 67x2 million gawking eyes. For this, no journalist is needed. One can make it up on the go. Just follow the lead of the National Enquirer and watch some daytime soap operas; then apply sparingly to various individuals in Iran.
Another growth industry may be setting up a band or musical group, preferably all female. Here, I would go with something in between the Spice Girls, Silhouette and a Mariachi band. Traveling from city to city and performing in exotic costumes in front of thousands of celebrity-hungry fans, these girls can sell millions of cassettes, endorse different products and maybe even contract with the liquor stores and advertise in the tabloids. Picture the crowds! Imagine the money! I guarantee enough profits for barbecue and baby grand piano tucked inside a mansion in Beverly Hills.
Finally, for the truly adventurous I suggest a replica of Las Vegas smack in the middle of Kavir-e Lut. Here, one sets up a small city with five or six hotels that are basically casinos disguised as places of relaxation and fun. One hotel theme can be the court of Nasseredin Shah Qajar, complete with harems, tall hats, Malijak and the works. Another theme can be a Persian dinner party. Here Baba Karam blasts through the speakers, tea-drinks are constantly served, and all Black Jack tables are Italian baroque furniture with weird curves and awful patterns. All waitresses carry Chanel purses, wear black dresses and occasionally give in and start dancing to Baba Karam. Now that would be a definite hit.
Now, the right entrepreneur might ask where the capital and the labor for all these projects come from? No need to worry there.
Ever think what happens to those who live off U.S.-Iran hostility in exile? The Mojahedin on the left and the Royalists on the right, will suddenly have no followers or place to rule. Former leftists will provide the labor and royalists will put up the dough and transfer money to Iran with the promise of good returns. Besides, both groups can boast of the tremendous help they are extending to their country and people.
Now, given the fact that business in Iran needs a certain know-how that is not taught in any business school or mentioned in any books, some consultants are needed. Well, there will be a whole bunch of smugglers who will be in ruins overnight by the end of U.S. sanctions. These are probably the most underrated consultants in the world. They will be glad to show the right entrepreneur the ropes, for the right price of course.
So, this Khatami deal may become a windfall for the adequately adventurous. It depends how savvy you are and how many demons you are willing to espouse!