Sci & Tech

Russian Investments for Iran Online Business

Russian Investments for Iran Online Business
Russian Investments for Iran Online Business

Two Russian businessmen have reportedly invested in leading Iranian online businesses.

Former shareholder of Qiwi and president of Parus Capital Fund, Andrey Muravyev, and managing partner at Parus Capital, Boris Sinegubko, have reportedly invested several million dollars in three leading Iranian technology companies, DigiKala, Divar and Sheypoor, according to Kommersant.

 “We have invested in the Iranian equivalent of Amazon, the market leader in e-commerce, Digikala. We have also invested in two companies, which dominate the market of electronic advertisements, that is Divar and Sheypoor,” explained Sinegubko.

Digikala was established in 2007 as an online retail website for digital goods. However, it has quickly risen to prominence in less than a decade. A portmanteau of digital and kala (meaning “goods” in Farsi), the local leader in e-business ranks as the fourth most popular website in Iran and the number one most popular startup among all.

Since its launch, Digikala has expanded the categories of goods available for purchase and now includes sports and leisure, healthcare and beauty, home appliances and artistic products. As of March 4, 2016, Digikala’s global ranking was 494 based on data published by

Leading classified ads website, where people sell, buy or swap cars, furniture, household appliances or musical instrument, is the most popular one in Iran.

Launched in 2007, it took Divar (meaning “wall” in Farsi) until 2013 to focus its activities on online sales. It is now the sixth most visited website, making it the fourth most popular Iranian startup.

Quite similar to Divar, Sheypoor is also an online ad platform. It was launched in 2010 and now ranks 106 in Iran and 6,595 globally.

Iran has “huge potential”, said Boris Sinegubko. Out of the overall 80 million people in the country, more than half the youth uses modern technologies and they own nearly 30 million smartphones, said the investor.

Sinegubko and Muravyev are co-owners of Internet assets in Iran. They have also invested in a Swedish company founded specifically to work in Iran.

Last fall, shareholders of POmegranate, a capital venture investment company, also became the founders of Avito, Jonas Nordlander and Filip Engelbert.

Avito is Russia’s largest classified Ads site.

POmegranate owns 9.4% of Iranian investment company Sarava Pars and plans to increase the share to 15%. Sarava, in turn, owns 51% of a leading online retailer Digikala and plans to increase the percentage to 60% in the near future.

Also, Sarava owns 20% of the group Cafe Bazaar/Divar and 15% in Sheypoor. Similar to Google Play, Cafe Bazaar is an Iranian application store for Android.

In fact, the main asset of Sarava is the online retailer Digikala with a market share of over 80% and its worth is estimated to be nearly $400 million (according to The Economist).

The Russians are also considering investments in Iranian companies and believe that within the next five years, the value of Digikala will rise to $4 billion, which is 10 times its current worth.

Financial Tribune reached out to both Sarava and Digikala for comments on the investment deal, but they did not respond at the time of going to print.

A significant growth of e-commerce is anticipated in Iran after the lifting of western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear energy program.

Last year, the six international negotiators and Iran reached an agreement over the latter’s nuclear energy program. International sanctions were lifted from Iran in mid-January, after the UN nuclear agency confirmed that Iran had fulfilled its obligations under the agreement by putting temporary curbs over its nuclear program.

After the lifting of sanctions, Iran received access to frozen assets worth $100 billion and Iranian banks have been reconnected to the international SWIFT system.