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The Connecting of Iran
Sci & Tech

The Connecting of Iran

Netflix started working in Iran—albeit for only a brief moment—earlier this week much to the surprise of the TV soap-fixated urban population.
As Netflix realized there was a market for their product in the country, it could have entered the Iranian market with the authorization of government regulators and cultural entities.
Either way, the move by the American online TV operator marks a small but noticeable shift in the way companies around the world are beginning to view the Iranian populace–a group eager to buy foreign products.
Netflix alone is not going to usher a new era of how the Internet treats its Iranian cousins, it is going to take a considerably larger concerted effort to make us on this side of the fence feel part of the global Internet community. And that's where Booking.com comes into the picture.
The US holiday booking website has begun to offer international deals in Iranian rials for the first time. This is unprecedented and somewhat under the radar, as there has been little or no public talk about the company's effort to take a chunk out of the Iranian vacation market.
As one checks the website, all destinations show an incredibly competitive pricing structure, suggesting that the price offered to the Iranian buyer is the same offered to customers elsewhere. The price suggested in Iranian rial also seems to be at the free market exchange rate rather than any official pegged system.
Financial Tribune contacted Booking.com for when, how and why they launched an outreach toward Iranians, making it one of the first US-based companies to do so. The company did not respond by the time this article went to print.
The Booking.com example could be simply a glitch in the system and the Iranian rial is just there because it is programmed by some exchange program internally; either way it offers insight into the future direction of competition inside Iran and where it will come from.
For the site to offer these prices, and for users to pay, Iranians would have to be connected to the international banking system—which is not happening soon in 2016, according to one well connected source in the Iranian banking sector.
Booking.com's other family of websites, including flight booking website Kayak, do not show the Iranian rial as an option so it remains an exclusive event to see the local currency on one foreign website.
Once the "Implementation Day" goes through in the next few days, international companies are likely to warm up to doing business with Iranian banks. However, how long that takes to extract money from international accounts and whether Iran's Shetab card system can be linked in the intermediate period before international card brands come remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Booking.com and Netflix are signs of what is to come and not what has been.

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