TBY talks to Seyedeh Fatemeh Moghini, Managing Director of Sadid Bar International Transport.
TBY Did people have difficulties accepting your desire to join the transport sector?
SEYEDEH FATEMEH MOGHIMI Not about the rules, the government and the rules did not stop me. It was the attitude of the people. They could not accept what was going on when a woman worked in a type of job that was traditionally done by men. It is not just Iran. All over the world in transportation they cannot accept that a woman is going to do this job. That is why I started to prove that if somebody wants to do something, it depends on their mentality, not on their gender. I started as a manager at first during the four years that I was at this job. At this time I started to show that I have the ability to have an influence on the people I work with. My education is in civil engineering. Maybe it was far from the job that I was going to start, but I thought that it is better to start there. After four years I tried to receive permission to establish a transportation company by myself. My application was refused by officials as they said it was not possible for a woman to do this type of occupation, and I said I want to prove that I can. After I approached them many times they gave me temporary permission. I passed so many exams and went to so many classes just to show that I could do this. Eventually I received one-year temporary permission, and so I started up in business. Fortunately, all of the people that worked with me during the previous four years—the drivers, clients, and the merchants—said they would like to be in business with me. During the first year I had more than 200 drivers in my hands. I had a contract with them and I showed them I can do this business.
Did you own the trucks?
No. Most of the drivers in Iran are the owners of the trucks, and the companies do not have enough capital to have their own trucks. That is why we contract with the drivers and they are self-owner drivers, and they have their passports in the name of the company. Then they load shipments from the main points in Iran and export cargo, as well as import cargo from other countries to Iran. Sometimes it is transit cargo that is passing through Iran. Of course, we had many difficulties getting the visas for drivers and preparing everything. But after 31 years working in this job I can say that it is a great job for women.
Why do you say that?
Many of the drivers leave the country for other places. It takes maybe three weeks to one month for the journey. This means that their family needs somebody. Maybe they need somebody to work with them. Maybe they need some money or maybe they need help with some trouble. If the manager of the company is a man, of course the woman in the family will have some trouble getting in touch. As a woman, I always had a good friendship and relationship with the families of the drivers. If they have any problems they come to you. Of course, on the other hand you have many problems with your drivers in other cities and countries. For example, you may have smuggling or an accident, a short or lost shipment. Sometimes they fail, and you have to be brave, and you have to be on call all the time, like a doctor, I say. They can suddenly call you in the middle of the night with a problem. You need to be on call and solution-oriented all the time, because you have to inform and advise them on what to do.
How do you select and train your drivers?
So many drivers do not have enough education or they are unable to make the best decisions at the time. We have many classes for the drivers where we train them. They have to be trained, and they have to know the international transportation rules. We have a book and a syllabus of education we have to teach to the drivers when they are going to drive outside of Iran. Things like how to load the shipments, how to stack the pallets and boxes, how to secure shipments properly, because they have to check what is going on. If something goes wrong with a shipment in a different country, the penalty will go to the transportation company. However, if they have some training, insurance may cover some of the damages.
How many drivers are you working with currently?
We work with 70 or so drivers. I am not just working in the transportation of import and export shipments. Most of the time I am working with transit cargo. This means that I do not need to involve the company with so many trucks. We need inland transportation because it comes to the ports or to the borders and we load shipments on Iranian trucks for inland transportation across Iran and they unload at the other border.
So your activity now focuses on transportation from the port to the city?
We transport goods to border cities for re-export. As you know, at this point we have so much transit cargo going via Iran because it is a north-south and east-west corridor. Unfortunately, we are in the position that we have conflict in the neighborhood. It is unfortunate because, of course, war is not good. But as it is happening we have to make our way in the world. For example, In Iraq and Afghanistan we have so much potential to load and send shipments. That is why we shifted the position of our company to transit cargo.
So that way you avoid problems with them coming into Iran and doing it themselves?
We have to do as they need. It is all a part of multi-modal transportation. Sometimes you have to arrange it via road and rail. Sometimes you have to go by ship. Sometimes someone wants to send something to China. How can you send it? Of course on land we are going to carry it from Tehran to Bandar Abbas, and then from Bandar Abbas we go by sea.
Do you have any type of tracking or GPS in your trucks to monitor their location?
Yes, and when we want to talk to clients about the position of their cargo or when we want to inform the factory when the trucks will arrive we know where the trucks are. In the past we could call the drivers. Sometimes when the driver did not want to answer he would switch off the mobile and maybe he would lie, but with the GPS he cannot lie. Then you find that he has stopped for more than six hours. It is a problem that you can ask him about.
What do you think about the road and transport infrastructure in Iran? Are more roads and ports needed?
Of course. When the capacity of transportation is growing it means that you have to renew so many old roads and build new roads. You have to establish other facilities for the drivers on their way from point to point. For example, we have to build rest areas for the drivers. That is why we need some investment inland, and we need some investment from other countries.
What about the ports? Where do you see room for progress?
With the ports it is going to be through privatization. There are so many companies at the moment that get shipments in the ports. We have so much potential to be the hub for this area. It did not happen until now. Privatization will be very helpful. The government is going to help in this respect. I am sure that this area has good potential to grow.
What about customs in Iran? Do you see any improvements on the horizon?
Unfortunately there are old rules in customs at the moment. They are going to renew them. We have new rules that are going to the Parliament. I know that they will be approved.
What will the new regulations change?
For example, declarations at customs will get easier. If these rules are approved by Parliament, they will be closer to the rules of the WTO. Some cargo we do not have permission to bring in because of legal and cultural reasons, and some because they want to protect the production of Iranian factories. Many people tell us that when they try to import something they have difficulty with customs. There are some problems with the bureaucracy, though this is because the customs laws were made 40 years ago. They need to be updated.
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