“New technologies are clearly in demand. Cutting energy costs, using water and other resources efficiently, and reducing waste and pollution are all good reasons for Iranian builders to want to exploit new trends.”
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about working in Iran? What makes Tehran special?
Iran wasn’t actually that weird a destination for me. I had lived there for about nine years up to 2007. The very first thing I think of is mastering a diversified and challenging job. Business behavior in the Middle East, especially in Iran, is quite different to the rest of the world. You have to understand the history of the country as well as the way the theoretical system works. Tehran is a metropolis with more than 14 million inhabitants. The city is located right next to the Alborz Mountains and its outskirts are 1800 m above sea level.
What are your personal secrets for leading a team?
Trust and accountability are two essential elements for successful teamwork. Adapting to the local business world and understanding the people’s customs are also key to success.
The United Nations still has sanctions in place against Iran. If these were lifted, would you expect to see international investors ready to jump right in?
Definitely. Many European and even American conglomerates have already drawn up plans to enter the market since November 2013, when the interim nuclear deal was concluded. With over 80 million people, the Iranian market has tremendous potential. Due to the political situation the country has been more or less isolated in the last 40 years, and this has created substantial demand in every field. Iran is very rich in commodities and able to invest significantly in the country’s modernization.
Iran is the second largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region after Saudi Arabia, with an estimated GDP of USD 406.3 billion in 2014. Where is this huge and highly educated Iranian youth heading?
Iran has all this potential to be a powerhouse in the region. However, it has faced and continues to face a huge “brain drain,” as many young people leave to seek jobs elsewhere. With expenditure on the right programs to harness the incredible talents of its young people, Iran would be an extremely successful regional power.
Unemployment rate is still very high. What are the chances of the Arab Spring protests leading to more uncertainty and instability in society and the economy than vice versa?
First of all, we need to make a distinction between Iran and other Arab countries. The Arab Spring protests of 2010 spread throughout the countries of the Arab League, but not to Iran. As mentioned above, Iran has one of world’s highest “brain drain” rates. However, beside a few other key points (excellence in science and technology, job creation and personal development), lifting the economic sanctions would still be the best option to bring down the unemployment rate.
How about the construction market? Where exactly does Iran need Sika?
Sika is active in various fields, the first being residential and infrastructure construction. The second main pillar is concrete refurbishment, which uses a lot of Sika applications. Nowadays Iran is starting to build segmental bridges, and this offers Sika a wide range of applications for its proprietary products.
Any new trends in construction you can see?
New technologies are clearly in demand. Cutting energy costs, using water and other resources efficiently, and reducing waste and pollution are all good reasons for Iranian builders to want to exploit new trends for energy saving and environmentally friendly construction methods and products. Recently the local authorities have been focusing on fire protection coatings as well as new methods to strengthen buildings against earthquakes.
Where is Sika Iran headed? What are its targets?
I took office in very difficult circumstances, but now Sika Parsian is moving forward and we believe that we will see a strengthening in our market position soon. We have made some initial progress. The object here is to increase sales activities and use marketing campaigns, like seminars and training sessions, etc. Our focus is on gaining market leadership in the construction sector as well as in the BTR, FFI and Structural Strengthening businesses.
What are the best things about living in Iran? What do you personally enjoy the most?
Well, Iran’s culture is one of the oldest in the Middle East. The environment here is also unique; Iran is one of the few countries where you can experience all four seasons at the same time.
It starts from the subtropical climate on the Caspian Sea, goes over amazing mountains with heights up to 5674 m (Damavand), through spectacular deserts and up to the Persian Gulf. I enjoy alpine skiing in the mountains behind Tehran as well as diving in the Persian Gulf. Visiting the ancient oriental cities like Shiraz, Esfahan, Kerman and Yazd is also a great experience for us as Europeans.
What do you wish Iran for the future?
I wish the nuclear negotiations to reach a positive conclusion soon so that all the restrictions that have been imposed on Iran can be lifted and its unique long-term potential unlocked.
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