For the few international travelers which have walked the streets of either Tehran or Damascus at any point in recent history, it comes as a bit of a shock and pleasant surprise to see so few Western brands, companies and chains on the streets in all cities.
Even Egypt has multiple McDonald's and Burger King restaurants, but after years of sanctions and international isolation, in Iran and Syria the streets are lined only with locally-owned stores, restaurants, and clothing brands. To a large degree, these wartime and sanctions adaptable economies have allowed these countries to stay afloat even as the West essentially wages economic warfare, but just barely.
A new lengthy report in Bloomberg details the latest iteration of the "made in Iran" movement among young Iranian entrepreneurs which is keeping the country's economy afloat against all odds. The report introduces:
“Made in Iran” has emerged as a rare glimmer of hope in the financial destruction from being ostracized from the oil market and global trade while Covid-19 rages. In a country where so many people’s lives have been defined by cycles of Western restrictions, brands like Koi, Zi Shampoo and Bonmano Coffee are among the homespun names that are filling the vacuum for consumer goods.
These small businesses which are producing items that meet simple needs and wants among Iranians have everything entirely sourced within the Islamic Republic. The Ayatollah has long encouraged such resilience in the face of crippling sanctions, also foreseeing a likely continued future isolation, dubbing it the “resistance economy”.
Much of the new localized economy is born out of a necessary reaction to the re-imposed sanctions of 2018, following the Trump White House's tearing up the JCPOA nuclear deal. That's when for example popular Western clothing and shoe brands like Adidas and Benetton left for good.
As Bloomberg details, that's also when "A combination of the sudden crash in the value of the rial, a huge hit to consumer spending power and a government ban on hundreds of non-essential goods, including garments, ripped through the retail industry." As a result, "Fewer imports led to a scarcity of mundane things like foreign shampoo brands, which have skyrocketed in price."
Many of the latest products to pop up as a result have a quality that many Iranians say is the same as imported products that were in more abundance before. “There has been a definite trend in the past two years where more and more people are opening small businesses and selling things they can produce themselves,” an online marketing retail director named Amir Ali Sabour told Bloomberg.
American-made products have still trickled in little by little over the years...
However, some sectors relying heavily on technologies tied to imports and which are in the hands of a few like Iran's automotive industry have struggled to keep up, and have been hit hard by sanctions, but also reportedly as they are more prone to corruption.
Though Iran's economy is still spiraling amid the pandemic crisis and years of sanctions, and rampant inflation since 2019, the Islamic Republic's “resistance economy” doctrine could help it in the long-run outlast the Trump administration's attempt to crush it.