Ziya Domaniç

Managing Director, Unilever Central Asia & Iran

I cover Unilever's operations from Kazakhstan to Cyprus, and Iran joined this group in 2007. This is a rather complicated geography and each country has its own difficulties. That is why we aim to truly understand how to operate in each country. We can be flexible as long as Unilever's Code of Business Principles is strictly adhered to. It is a rewarding challenge to understand the country, the consumers, and how the market operates. I travelled throughout the country several times to better understand local consumers, their shopping habits, and the trade structure. This contributed significantly to our plans, which turned the business around to deliver profitable and sustainable growth since 2009. The Iranian consumer is very conscious of the price-quality relationship, and they are ready to pay more for higher quality goods. Something produced abroad cannot simply be sold at any price—you have to deliver the right quality consistently. Iran has a very experienced and competitive industry in consumer goods. I can quantify the improvement in quality and the marketing skills of local businesses over the past five years. The quality of packaging has also become world class compared to other Central Asian states. Iran has a long history of trade and industry, and competition is welcomed and even encouraged. I believe the presence of multinationals not only accelerates market growth, but also the development of the local competition.

Jan Wagensveld

Managing Director, Nutricia-MMP

Danone has been looking at Iran since 2005 or 2006. Eventually, Danone struck a deal with a local partner with whom it set up a joint venture in August 2008. Basically, the facilities were already there, as the partner had already built the factory in Mashhad a couple of years earlier. Around that time, it started its own business producing milk powder for infants and adults. Various companies began looking at this plant in order to enter the Iranian market because of the country's high population, which sees the birth of around 1.5 million babies every year. It is one of the most populous countries in the region, and so there was a real long-term strategic intent from the side of Danone to make an entry into this market. There are actually four Danone divisions here in Iran, including water, dairy, and medical nutrition. Danone signed the deal in August 2008 with the local partner, forming the new company called Nutricia-MMP. MMP stands for Mashhad Milk Powder Industry. Its first product was launched in April 2009, while the long-term goal is to achieve profitability through targeted investment. We are marketing two global Danone brands here: Bebelac and Aptamil.

Osman Aksoy

General Manager, Pars Hayat

The relationship between Hayat Holding and Iran started many years ago. One of the holding group companies, Kastamonu Integrated Wood Industries, has exported its products to Iran for around 15 years. Kastamonu Integrated is the leader of the sector in Turkey, and a well-known brand in Iran as well. After these positive relationships were formed, the idea of investing in Iran was considered seriously. There have also been cultural connections between Iran and Turkey for many years. Iran has a consistent and stable management with a population close to 75 million and high potential. There is a visa exemption between the two countries and this provides a cross trade which has increased every single day. We believe in Iran, as the country provides a host of conveniences in terms of logistics. A larger investment in Iran will develop the relationship between the two countries further, and the people of both nations will continue to become closer.

Sharif Nezam-Mafi

Managing Director, Bühler in Iran

Iran is an important country for Bühler because of its demographic and geographic position. Iran's population is currently approaching around 80 million. This is a huge market with huge potential for food production. Bühler's strategy is to remain active in this market and to serve its customers under any circumstances. We have been in this market for over 40 years as the fully owned subsidiary of Bühler AG of Switzerland. Our operation here is responsible for over 70% of total flour production in Iran, with 120 active mills. In 1996, Bühler invested in a production facility in Astara and currently our factory is providing the needed cleaning and logistical machines of the local milling industry. Today, we proudly label the products from our factory “Bühler Astara-Made in Iran.” These products have become the first-class standard of the industry in Iran. In addition, Bühler is very active in the pasta business—over 60% of Iran's pasta is produced using Bühler machines—80% of the country's chocolate production, and 40% of the animal feed is produced using Bühler machines as well. Our initiative in Iran at the moment is rice milling with the inauguration of the biggest parboiling rice mill in the Middle East in Mazandaran province, and optical sorting by introducing our Sortex technology into the pistachio and wheat-cleaning markets.

Eric Roper

Managing Director, Arya Sasol Polymer

The original joint venture between the National Petrochemical Company (NPC) of Iran and Sasol of South Africa was formed in 2002. The investment decision was taken in 2003, and ethylene production started in 2007, followed by polyethylene soon after in 2008. There are significant synergies gained by being in the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ), the most significant being the shared process utilities ASPC receives from Mobin. The site is very well integrated with pipeline interconnections on feedstock and product lines, and these enable greater production flexibility between the various petrochemicals businesses during production and feed upsets. There is a common spirit of goodwill among the producers in the PSEEZ to ensure we all succeed. The PSEEZ, together with Pazargad HSE, provides common emergency response services, roads, and other infrastructure, all of which benefits the individual and independent companies that operate within the zone.

Afshin Madani

Managing Director, Knauf Iran

Knauf started operations in Iran back in the 1960s, though it was not a direct investment at the time. The founder was delivering equipment to gypsum producers. Knauf is now a producer of construction material, gypsum, and the byproducts of gypsum, such as gypsum board, which is a very useful construction material. In the 1960s, it delivered equipment to Iranian gypsum producers like Iran Gatch, which was at that time the biggest gypsum producer in the world. The direct investment took place about 14 years ago when Knauf bought three plants. The Knauf-Iran plant was one, and it produces gypsum board and accessories including profiles and other necessities. Then, Knauf bought Iran Gatch, which is publicly traded on the stock exchange. We have more than 97% of the shares, so it belongs to the Knauf Group. Then, we bought Saran-Gatch, which is now Knauf-Gatch, a producer of gypsum. These three plants were bought over the last 14 years. We have modernized all of them and they include state-of-the-art technology. These three plants are now operating at full capacity and there is a big market for our products in Iran. The average age of houses is more than 20 years, creating demand from both the renovation and new housing markets. That was the reason why Knauf invested in Iran. Knauf has a very long-term view for investment in Iran, as it is a strategic country that has a huge potential for growth.