Sci & Tech

B2B Platform to Crack New Frontier

B2B Platform to Crack New Frontier
B2B Platform to Crack New Frontier

Iran's online trading platform has been primarily focused on the consumer until now.  Business-to-Business online stores have remained an illusive project that not even the current major players in the industry have managed to crack in any meaningful sense.

This hole in the market obviously could not have remained open for ever as a growing number of contenders would inevitably enter the scene, one of which is, a startup created by Michael Mehrzad Khoi, previously CEO of Delta Automotive in Switzerland.

Financial Tribune managed to speak with him on the sidelines of the recent Europe-Iran Trade Forum in Switzerland to get the lowdown on his new large-scale venture.

" currently has 22,000 merchants listed in the first phase and is calling on others to join in," he said.

The website, which was launched last month, lists hundreds of companies within specific merchant sections. It hopes to connect Iranian business with the outside world, similar to what did for Chinese businesses 10 years ago.

In the short run, until sanctions are earmarked for removal by January, the company aims to build their in-country operations by being the first and by the looks of it foremost B2B trading platform in Iran.

  Realities of Transactions

Up until now, no international business could interact with Iran in any meaningful sense, which hampered the growth of companies in the country.

Khoi and his backers from Switzerland hope to bridge that gap by offering a modern website that is navigable, something which has failed most online B2B startups in Iran.

Speaking with the serial entrepreneur, who has a million-dollar backing, he gives an insight into his successes and current endeavor.

"My first thought was how we can leverage what we have in Europe by also leveraging it in Iran," Khoi says.

Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, and spending 35 years in France, Khoi has run several successful businesses, including the cars sales network Delta that provides multi-brand solutions for car dealers.

However, it seems that was not enough for Khoi who wanted to return to Iran and challenge himself to launching a new business successfully in Iran.

"I want to make money in Iran of course, but at the same time I want to contribute to the future of Iran. It is where I am from originally and I want to feel positive about the country," he said.

With the launch of his three new Iran-based ventures, he hopes to move business forward in the country.

"The government really supports us in our efforts," he said.

Khoi mentioned that Zoodel's platform, although similar to Alibaba, is not a clone of the New York-listed company.

  Business Plans

"What we are doing with is not a 'copy-paste' but a specifically designed platform for Iranian businesses," he said.

Khoi said his target is to export Iranian products, which topped the agenda of his latest operations.

The difficult task of dealing with businesses is that money continues to remain a sticking point in Iran, with issues such as international transactions currently remaining off the cards.

With regard to payment gateways, the company has the first stage setup, "as we operate in Iran [only] initially."

After they managed to work Iran-to-Iran transactions and when legally compliant, through its ZoodelPay escrow system, the company aims to work with regional countries, including Commonwealth of Independent States.  

Khoi says his company will work in two languages first, namely Persian and English, and his site will give the merchants a sub-domain on the site, which will create a real marketplace for businesses.

"Our search engine optimization is up to speed with the region, as we can integrate our products with local web advertising in regional countries like Afghanistan, Tajikistan and even Azerbaijan [Republic]."

"From our side, we have to check the authenticity of the company before we list their products," Khoi says, which they do by checking the companies' registration documents and their tax codes to make sure everything matches up.

"And the third check is the escrow payment system that OrientSwiss will take care of," he said

  Dealing with Sanctions

Asked whether sanctions would be an issue for trade between the buyer and seller, Khoi said, "For the moment, Zoodel remains Iran-Iran trade."

He added that they plan to go international once sanctions are lifted.

Khoi claims his website will be a success because of the local talent on the ground.

"What we do is different from other business-to-business platforms. And we have the local understanding of the market to make this a successful venture," he said.