Sci & Tech

US Tech Giants Smell Iran Profits

US Tech  Giants Smell Iran ProfitsUS Tech  Giants Smell Iran Profits

Iran has the potential to be the best emerging market for American tech companies, according to a new report in the US media this week.

A majority of Iranians are still under 35 and well educated with university degrees, while over half the country has access to the Internet with a growing amount logging on via 3G and 4G mobile connections. Thus, investment in Iran's technology infrastructure is a sure bet.

Many businesses have to wait until more sanctions are lifted, but certain tech companies can already enter the Iranian market because the US has lifted sanctions on various communication technologies, according to National Public Radio.

Technology companies have been hesitant to enter on the back of negative stereotypes, which have hindered entry into the market of 80 million people.

"There's been recognition for the past five years or so that increasing access to technology in Iran for the Iranian public is a greater good," Anderson says.

So, last year, the Obama administration lifted sanctions on American tech companies that sell personal communication technologies.  

"It is fully legal to sell cellphones, laptops, tablets, modems, WiFi routers and most of the software that most people use every day," says Vivek Krishnamurthy, who teaches at Harvard Law School.

But, Krishnamurthy says, that has not meant that American tech companies have jumped into Iran—there is still no Apple Store there.

"Doing business with Iran is extremely difficult today because of the comprehensive financial sanctions," he says. "It is really hard to get money in or out of the country."

Now that the US and the rest of the P5+1 group of countries have settled the longstanding nuclear dispute, the process can now begin.

"American tech companies have a good reputation in Iran," says Fraidon Korangy, an Iranian-born tech entrepreneur who runs MAPS accelerator.

Korangy started several companies in the US, but he now lives in Iran. He says most young people in Iran want to grow up and be Steve Jobs.  "There is a tremendous amount of pro-US love in Iran in terms of technologies and solutions," Korangy says

He says China and some European countries have left a bad impression.

"Especially the Chinese have taken advantage of them because of the sanctions regime," Korangy says. "They have sort of said, 'OK. Nobody else will deal with you. We will deal with you but at a significant premium'."

He says that includes marked up prices and delays in completing projects.

Despite the ripe climate for business in Iran, American tech companies have been very quiet about their plans.

In their report, NPR contacted Apple, Google, Cisco and other big players. The only company that would admit to plans to enter Iran was Netflix.

  Education Quality

There are some 80 million Iranians and the country has top-ranking engineering schools. Iran has its own startup scene like Dmond and Avatech.

Voices supporting greater tech growth include Hamid Biglari, an Iranian-American who runs a data analytics company.

"It is the perfect environment for US tech firms," he says.

"From a purely rational business point of view, it would be insane for them not to want to access such a large market on a level playing field compared to the rest of the world."

He says the best technology does not always win in a market—sometimes it is about who gets there first.

Iran's technology scene is up for grabs with investors coming from Iranian émigrés who are taking an interest in the country which they came from.