Interest in Iran "is a Gold Rush"

Jan 12, 2016 | Dagens Industri

A tug of war for skilled personnel is expected as international companies prepare to establish themselves in Iran. Interest in the country has been described as a gold rush by executive search company DHR International.

Many companies want to take advantage of the opportunity as soon as possible, as Di has previously written. Ayman Haddad, DHR's Dubai-based head of Middle East and Africa, notes that there is frantic activity in the lead up to the Sanctions relief.

"You cannot find a hotel room unless you book a month in advance, and it is hardly possible to get a flight ticket from Dubai to Tehran, even though there are ten planes a day," he says and continues:

"It's like a gold rush, and with good reason. The government will get back 50-150 billion that has been frozen, and all sectors of the economy will need a boost."

Companies from Germany, UK and France are considered to be ahead in their preparations, with many already having plans in place to build relationships and partnerships.

"Delegations are queuing up to meet the investment authorities who have a long list of potential projects. Everywhere one sees delegations of businessmen, chambers of commerce and European ministers," said Haddad.

DHR's Nordic Manager Peter Billing says that Swedish companies get in touch almost daily regarding Iran, but that one needs to step up to the challenge in order to stand out among their European competitors.

"The right knowledge is scarce and everyone understands that it will be too late to act once the restrictions are gone. Anyone who has experience of working in Iran, or the market is scarce. Swedish companies are asking us to call them directly should we find someone who has worked there," says Billing.

During the first quarter of 2016 we can expect the lifting of sanctions in Europe to commence, after which companies can take the step into the market. This provides a certain advantage as the US sanctions will remain longer than their European counterparts.

Haddad believes that companies will first be based in nearby Dubai, but that they will later have local operations put in place in Iran.

"The expectation of Iran is for companies to have a local commitment. That is how the culture and economy of the country works, and it will be difficult to conduct business abroad in the long term, "says Haddad.

"Iran is a sophisticated country with good infrastructure, telecom and banking systems. What is missing is the human capital. You need knowledge and experience from the West in order to drive development forward and manage the huge growth, "said Haddad.

Initially international companies are looking for two main profiles - expatriate Iranians who may be recruited as country or regional managers or candidates from Europe, Turkey and Arab countries that can manage the business during the early stage. Searching for local skills will begin with the next phase.

"One of the questions that the Swedish companies are asking is how to find the perfect blend of local knowledge and understanding of Western culture. This is the mix we are looking for, whether it's an Iranian or European candidate," says Billing.

After a mutual learning period it is not expected that cultural differences will pose any major problems. However, the bureaucracy of the country can be a challenge for European companies, according to Haddad.

"There is another system for decision making. The government is still involved to a great extent, and companies should probably expect a certain lead time for things to get done. The bureaucracy is more extensive than in any European country."

This problem is, however, manageable, and all other indicators seem to point upwards for what Ayman Haddad calls "the next Eldorado" in terms of business and growth.

"I think it is a fantastic new growth opportunity. If the sanctions disappear there will be a war for talent. "


This article has been translated from Swedish to English. To read the original article in Dagens Industri please click here.