If you were to ask Iranians about the lifting of economic sanctions and many of them will tell you it’s too early to judge the impact this will have on their country’s economy and their everyday lives.
But as we found out on our recent visit to Tehran, some tech
entrepreneurs are not waiting around to find out what comes next.
They’re getting started already.
Takhfifan, which means “discount” in Farsi, is an online
retail startup run by Nazanin Daneshvar.
The tech venture is a lot like an Iranian version of Groupon.
Takhfifan brokers steep discounts with a variety of Tehran retailers
on everything from sunglasses to candy to knock-off Starbucks mugs.
Consumers order online, and they appear to
love the deals: Daneshvar’s startup has seen 100-percent annual
“Basically we are offering deals, daily deals, coupons vouchers,
flash sales, promotions, anything that is related to discounts,”
She wears a long black cardigan over a white blouse,
with a hijab that looks more decorative than obligatory.
Daneshvar went to grad school in Tehran, then landed a job in
London as a developer with a company trying to break into the Iranian
But Daneshvar says economic sanctions killed any chances of
“So, I moved back,” she says. And she got her first idea for a
“My parents were living in a flat on the third floor and they
were carrying all these groceries [up and down the stairs] all the
time," she says. "And I just thought, ‘Maybe we should do
something similar to Europe.’ So, I started the first online
Daneshvar’s maiden voyage as a tech entrepreneur took off so
quickly it crashed and burned.
It was a simple home-delivery venture: A
customer orders groceries through an app, and they get delivered to
the customer’s home. But lots of media attention made things
“We were on all the big brand newspapers,” Daneshvar says. “In
one hour we got over 5,000 orders from everywhere in Tehran. And then
it was just myself with one delivery guy, and it was just, ‘Oh, my
God, this is just not going to work.’”
After that trial, Daneshvar took another job outside the country,
this time in Germany. And that’s where she dreamed up the idea for
She thought an Internet-based shopping program of some sort would
work in Tehran.
Four years ago, Takhfifan went online.
As of a year ago, the
startup used one corner of a four-story building in north Tehran.
it's using the whole building, including the basement, which
functions as a warehouse for goods on sale.
Last year, Daneshvar was invited to California for a tech
conference. She even got to meet with an executive from Groupon.
“I started explaining, this is how we do it,” she says. “And
then it was, ‘I can’t believe it. You are exactly copying us.’
And I was just joking with them, ‘No, you are copying us!’” Read more: