Meet our entrepreneur
Could you tell us about your background and how you got into the tech industry?
Thanks to my Computer Science background, I had the opportunity to work as a software developer for a range of primarily e-commerce start-ups in London and Berlin. I used this knowledge when moving back to Iran and starting Takhfifan.
How did Takhfifan come about?
Takhfifan was my second start-up attempt after an online grocery shopping venture around 15 years ago. By then, as a developer I felt that whatever I could build I had the capacity to run too. I started building Takhfifan, preparing for its launch, on weekends when I wasn’t working. For the first few months my sister and I (co-founders) were the only people running the platform.
How would you describe the Iranian tech sector?
The Iranian tech sector has made significant forward movements since the early days of Takhfifan just over a decade ago. At that time, we didn’t have the basic rules and infrastructure for running e-commerce platforms, which was evident in the difficulty of finding financing at the time. Fast forward to today and the Iranian technology sector is very developed. This change has happened in the space of only a decade.
As an Iranian female entrepreneur in the tech sector, what challenges have you faced?
This is a personal and very important topic for me. Takhfifan is the biggest female-founded start-up in Iran but the journey there has not been without challenges. When I was presenting Takhfifan in deal meetings, people would frequently ask “where is your manager?”, certain that I could not be the founder or manager. In fact, for years I had to bring my father to meetings in order to reduce this tension. All over the world, as a female founder in tech, people look at your past performance and proof rather than your potential. These challenges arise day-to-day, but I have become resilient to them. There aren’t many female role models in this space, but I am proud to say that my sister and I have become role models for other women in Iran and I am grateful to be part of the story and change. The tech industry in Iran now has much improved female representation (around 40% of developers are female), but there is still a long way to go.
Could you describe Takhfifan in a few sentences?
Takhfifan started as a discount platform, but has pivoted into several new areas, and is now the biggest platform in Iran for cashback services and other fintech services. We try to replicate the O2O (online-to-offline) model, connecting online and offline actors through data-driven and marketing solutions, for example. The vision of the Takhfifan platform is to increase the purchasing power of the customer. We aim to do this via discount services, BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) services, cash-back services, and anything else that might be aligned with our vision.
What makes Takhfifan unique?
We are unique most concretely in our market position. We merged with our previous competitor, and we are now the outright leader in our sector. To give some more insight into our journey to this point, at the time of our most recent investment round, we had 30% market share, and our competitor had 70% market share. Post-investment, we managed to completely flip the market positions, where we were able to obtain 70% market share. This is testament to our agility and unique platform.
What are some of your achievements to date with Takhfifan?
An achievement that separates us from many other companies in our sector was our response to the COVID-19 crisis. When COVID came, we lost 90% of our sales almost overnight; in fact, I thought that our dashboards were faulty and called the data department to check the sales figures. All of our merchants were shut down and companies around us were closing down one after the other. At this point, we took this opportunity to build new services including our BNPL and fintech solutions. These services now account for 70% of our sales. Our ability to diversify to the extent that we have is a great achievement.
What are some of your goals with regards to Takhfifan and personally?
We are currently in a transition phase where I will be passing on the CEO role. My main goal as a board member is to make sure that our new CEO is onboarded properly and that Takhfifan continues on the right track. I will assume a consultant role to the new CEO to aid in this transition.
How does the cooperation with Pomegranate work?
I am very thankful for Pomegranate’s belief in our team; Pomegranate came in during a very tough period where local investors were not providing financing. Pomegranate’s understanding of the business, its inherent challenges and the broader start-up context is impressive. Takhfifan and Pomegranate’s partnership is a great story that I hope will continue.
Lastly, for us how do not know Persian, what does Takhfifan mean?
“Takhfif” means discount, and “Takhfifat” means “so many discounts”. Takhfifan is a mixture of the two – when people hear “Takhfif” they think of us.
Takhfifan is the biggest female-founded start-up in Iran but the journey there has not been without challenges.