After salvation from the 2000 aged monarchy, a segment of people and some players did not accept the new Iran. The latter chose to vamoose the country under the anticipation of being socially suffocated, and the former engaged Iran locally followed by economic sanctions. Despite succumbing to international pressure, they embraced the sanctions. Iranians soon found the silver lining to exist in isolation. After visiting Iran and meeting many community leaders, I perceived the sanctions could not choke them. Rather, it proved a great blessing to cover thousands of miles quickly regarding instantaneous localisation. This is also the only way forward for Pakistan; sooner or later, good or bad, they have to rely on localisation.
A sizeable contingent of 23 industrialists visited Iran on the invitation of the Consul General of Iran, His Excellency Mehran Movahid Fer, to attend a large auto show and meet the counterpart community leaders. The dramatic barter trade truce between these two impetuses the business communities on both sides of the border, facing almost identical problems of foreign exchange. I observed the positive energy on both sides, which must be translated into synergy before dwindling down. This trip was only to promote bilateral trade, auto, and aftermarket sectors, but I also had an inbuilt tourist inside me instigating to draw some lines, other than business.
I don’t find Tehran lesser than any European, North American, or Middle Eastern city. The city is green, clean, and disciplined, with wonderful infrastructure. It has the following attractions for a tourist: Azadi Tower, the National Museum, Tehran Tower, the Jewels Museum, Golestan Palace, Niavaran Complex, Imam Mosque, the Carpet Museum, Buzurg Bazar, Farshitey Street, and Saad Abad Complex. The top of Tehran Tower is decorated with their heroes’ statues. Tehran Tower resonated with me various heights, such as the CN Tower, Kuala Lumpur Towers, Burj Khalifa, Empire Centre, and World Trade Centre; I had experienced. A panorama of the city from the towel instigates the tourists to revisit. The Saad Abad Shopping Complex that outclasses the world’s leading malls, although less vibrant and busting than Dubai Shopping Mall and so on.
The people are friendly, although introverted. They wanted foreigners to talk to them but preferred not to initiate. But when you poke them, they respond, too. Despite their artifacts, they are not as orthodox as commonly perceived or seen, especially in urban areas. To me, they cannot be kept away from the modern world any longer. Democracy in Iran is hybrid, and the Supreme Council takes all the political decisions. The parliament is steered through selected technocrats and PhDs. The government also controls social media, although it’s in vain, as everyone uses proxies to bypass this restriction. In spite of some political reservations, people like the Pakistanis as they know neighbors can’t be changed. Iran is not expensive, especially since the basics are affordable and everyone works there. The reason for their survival is inclusion, cheap energy, food, localisation, and transport. Language is still a barrier but Pakistanis don’t affect like others. It will be surprising that Urdu speakers already know 50% of Persian; for the rest, three thoughtful months are enough. Shia religion is reflected everywhere. Their roads and squares are named after the martyrs who offered their lives in the revolution and war against Iraq.
The GDP is more than Pakistan’s, especially per capita has a significant difference of about three times more than ours. Like democracy, the economy is also controlled, and major industries are state-owned. For imports quota system is there to maintain the balance.
The auto and aftermarket Industries are thriving there. The International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) indexed Iran as sixth in the world in terms of car production growth in 2022 with about 97% localisation. It means car manufacturing in Iran leaped up by 19 percent in 2022, as the country manufactured 1.064 million vehicles against 894,000 in 2021 as the world’s 16th largest automaker in 2022 while comparing with UK, Russia, and the Czech Republic.
I foresee a big demand for motorcycles in the Iranian market for which Pakistani producers can collaborate with them. The input in Iran is cheaper. A vacuum for synergy exists to be filled by the joint venturing with Pakistan to add 30% value to enjoy the GSP and preferential export treatments worldwide. It’s a big opportunity for Iranian automotive and parts producers. The list of proposed barter items also needs to be expanded. The Iranian authorities must realise for barter, the Pakistani side needs some things to exchange; otherwise, it will not be of any use. The Iranian side may give access to parts, textiles and leather items.
Perceptual issues are also a big barrier on both sides, being an informal market. However, the four decades of informal trade have developed the muscles and reflexes of Iranian entrepreneurs. It’s a routine for them, but those who working in formal markets might have cognitive dissonance. The exchange of delegations and tier two and three-level interactions can foster confidence. I will not conclude the article without praising the role of our commercial section in Tehran, which removed my general perception of our missions.