Meet our entrepreneur
Majid Hosseini Nejad
Could you tell us about your background and how you got into the tech industry?
My decision to enter the Iranian tourism and travel industry was not part of my original plan. I had graduated with an engineering degree from a top university in Tehran and began doing business outside of Iran within the high technology materials industry. After realising some success in this industry, I started to build a travel agency in my free time that would eventually become Alibaba.
How did Alibaba Travel come about?
I began noticing that people were having difficulties finding domestic flight tickets – the international ticket margin was high, but domestic margins were low obviously leading to limited supply and lack of service. Alibaba as a start-up was therefore based around creating better experiences and opportunities within the domestic market. There had to be ways to improve the market, and this became important for me.
Could you describe Alibaba Travel in a few sentences?
Alibaba is committed to empowering and connecting the Iranian people in their travel experience. Iranians love to travel. We are developing a full ecosystem of travel in Iran: mainly domestic – train, hotel, bus, accommodation (Jabama) – but also international. We are the number one player in Iran by far and our service is at least comparable to top-level European tourism and travel services. We are very similar to a combination of Booking.com and TripAdvisor for example.
What makes Alibaba unique?
What is most important in making Alibaba unique is our top talent that is able to work together. We put time and energy into self-development in order to facilitate dialogue and communication. We are dedicated to our relationships with each other and the world around us, and we aim to empower tourism and travel around Iran in a sustainable fashion.
What are some of your achievements to date with Alibaba Travel?
We are the outright leader in all tourism and travel products, and we have survived both coronavirus and difficult macroeconomic and political times with no additional investment. My proudest achievement however is with regards to the growth in my relationships with my colleagues and my family through Alibaba. This company has changed me – in a good way.
When I was a young boy, we as a family went to the north of Iran close to the Caspian Sea where we rented an apartment from another family. Those were great times. Now our company offers a leading solution enabling thousands of people here in Iran to do the same thing – not only in more remote areas, but also in major cities such as Tehran. This has been important for me, a subject close to my heart.
What are some challenges that you have faced as a tech entrepreneur? How did you overcome them?
As I mentioned, Alibaba has persisted through tough macroeconomic and political environments as well as through coronavirus times. It has been important for us to create opportunities from these challenges. With regards to high inflation in Iran, we have turned to an asset focus, and have been developing our asset-based businesses (bus, airline, and accommodation). In terms of the supply constraints in Iran, we are constantly expanding our ecosystem to create more developed and plentiful offerings for the people of Iran.
What are some of your goals with regards to Alibaba Travel and personally?
My goal is to contribute to transforming Iran’s travel business into a world class business. I aim to achieve this through growth on a personal level and with my colleagues at Alibaba Travel, but also with my colleagues in the Iranian tech ecosystem. I believe that our ecosystem can empower entrepreneurs throughout Iran and create long-lasting wealth.
How does the cooperation with Pomegranate work?
We began to experience good growth in our early years when we were approached by leading investors, including Pomegranate. Pomegranate were already invested in Digikala, for example, whose founders I consider my mentors/coaches. We joined the group and since then we have become the outright market leader in the Iranian tourism and travel industry. The cooperation with Pomegranate connects us with the wider world outside of Iran with regards to industry standards and corporate governance for example, and I am very thankful for this; I enjoy being connected and exchanging thoughts and ideas.
For us that do not speak Persian, is there a meaning behind the company name?
In Iran, Alibaba has a “Marco Polo” essence to the name. We thought it was a suitable name for our new company as we aim to facilitate travelling and finding the best options for each customer. Now our company name is known across the whole of Iran.
We are dedicated to our relationships with each other and the world around us, and we aim to empower tourism and travel around Iran in a sustainable fashion.