Shiraz by Vahid Mortezaei

A salesman in Alko, who was helping me to find a wine, asked me:
– Where are you from?
– Iran
– Oh nice! Are there many wines in Iran?
– Well, alcohol is forbidden there.
– Oh sorry, I didn’t know that!
– Do you know Shiraz?
– Of course I know.
– Do you know Shiraz is the name of a very famous city in Iran?
– Oh no! I didn’t know that.

Iran is a contradictory country. The 1979 Islamic revolution put an end to the legal consumption, trade and production of alcoholic drinks in the country. But, surprisingly, wine has always been very present in Iranian mythology, poetry and paintings. However, it is claimed that that wine is just a metaphor and symbol of spiritual joys.  

Fresco (17th century), Chehel Sotun Palace, Isfahan, Iran

Shiraz is the fifth most populated city of Iran with 1.7 million habitants. The city has around 4000 years of glorious history. The Iranian civilisation owes a lot to this city. It was the capital of Iran at some point. The ancient capital of Persian Empire, Persepolis, is just a few kilometres away from Shiraz.  

Among the Iranians, Shiraz is well-known as the city of poetry. It is also considered as the cultural capital of Iran. In the mid-60s, Shiraz Arts Festival brought the city to the international cultural headlines. In 1969 Alvar Aalto visited the city to design the Shiraz Art Museum building. He prepared all the plans but unfortunately the construction of the museum never started because of the revolution. 

Tomb of Saadi (poet, 13th century), Shiraz

Shiraz used to be also very well-known because of its wine. By the 9th century, the finest wine in the world was produced in Shiraz and, according to documentation, in the 17th century this wine was exported outside of the country. However, winemaking in this city officially stopped in 1979. Nowadays some Iranian enthusiast winemakers continue these traditions in other countries. Dariush winery is one example.

The people of Shiraz are famous for being laidback, like the Mediterraneans. The geographical location of the city and its climate explains a lot. Shiraz is located in a green plain at the foot of the Zagros Mountains, full of beautiful gardens. Zagros is home to many wild species of grapevines. Some of the earliest evidence of grape-based wine was found around these mountains (around 5000 BC).

Eram Garden, Shiraz [photo: Nick Taylor, flickr]

But does Shiraz wine come from Shiraz? According to the scientists, there is no real connection between Syrah grapes and Shiraz. Maybe James Busby just wished that the name Shiraz would help him to market his wine.

Hesburger is in Iran! by Vahid Mortezaei

Hesburger, the most famous Finnish franchise, arrives to Iran.” This was the headline in the Iranian media for the opening of the first Hesburger in Tehran. There are extremely important points for Finnish companies in this piece of news.

Helsingin Sanomat, Sunday 15.4.2018

Hesburger is the biggest hamburger restaurant chain in Finland. But how big is Finland? The population of the greater Tehran area is about 15 millions (about 3 times of Finland’s population). Iran’s population is 80 millions. 74% lives in urban areas. 63% of the total population are 15-54 years old (and 24% are 0-14). The literacy rate is over 90% and the majority of this young population has higher education. So if Hesburger succeeds in the Iranian market, do you think it will still need to have a restaurant in Finland?

Iran is full of local fast food restaurants. Some of them are local or national chains. Their quality varies widely (Hesburger would be ranked as just OK).

The young Iranian society is thirsty for modernisation in different ways. It has already created its own modern lifestyle despite all the global sanctions and internal limitations. There are unofficial Apple stores, fake KFCs, an Iranian version of Starbucks, etc. Without any doubt, the young Iranians would queue in front of the first Burger King or Taco Bell as Finns did in Helsinki. Starbucks would grow like mushroom in Tehran -as Espresso House does in Helsinki.

Photo by Teija Norvanto, Yle.fi

The Iranian market is full of opportunities for foreign companies. But internal and international policies strictly limit the access to this heavenly market. 40 years after the 1979 revolution, McDonald’s still hasn't had the chance to get back there (even though they tried it a few times).

How Hesburger with a US$ 120 million revenue can win a US$ 25 billion McDonald’s in this battle? The answer is: with Finland's neutrality in global politics.

Iran is an old country with an adventurous history. It’s difficult to find a nation, which has not left a trace in the Iranians' historical memory. By the way, history is very alive in that society. People talk about the Persian Empire like it was yesterday. The Iranians are highly sensitive to foreign interference in their country. The illusion of conspiracy is well embedded in their subconscious. The British, the Americans and the Russians are blamed for almost every incident. The officials warn non-stop about the enemies.

If you ask the Iranians what do they think about Finland, most probably you will hear Nokia. If you ask further, they reply that it is a country similar to Sweden (and Sweden has a very positive image in their mind). And I can imagine that nowadays they fantasise about the happiest country in the world.

 Hesburger, Mannerheimintie 19, Helsinki

Hesburger, Mannerheimintie 19, Helsinki

Being politically neutral and having no image (or just some stereotypical positive images) in the Iranians' mind is the key that opens the gate of the Iranian market to the Finnish companies. Use this unique advantage before your giant rivals win the game, like they usually do!