135 years of ‘Assembly of Merchants’ in Iran: top entrepreneurs receive Amin al-Zarb award

Iran private sector commemorated the 135th anniversary of establishment of the first union of Iranian traders, called Assembly of Merchants. At the ceremony, Amin al-Zarb award was given to the best Iranian businessmen and entrepreneurs that have contributed to the national economy.

12 January 2019
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Iran private sector commemorated the 135th anniversary of establishment of the first union of Iranian traders, called Assembly of Merchants. At the ceremony, Amin al-Zarb award was given to the best Iranian businessmen and entrepreneurs that have contributed to the national economy.

Winners of the third Aminol Zarb award ceremony pose on stage. (Photo: Young Journalists Club, Mojtaba Arabzadeh)

10 private sector businessmen and entrepreneurs have been awarded the Amin al-Zarb medal, the highest prize for the best domestic entrepreneurs, in a ceremony celebrating the 135th foundation of Iran Chamber of Commerce. 

The jury, which chose the candidates based on their impact on the people’s lives as well as their exports, employment and production output, also decided to awarded the executive leaders of Zarrin Porcelain Company with 12,000 tons of annual production as well as Hamid Reza Hashemi Nia, Chairman of Sam Service and manufacturer of Samsung products in Iran. Also, Soltan Hossein Fattahi, founder of Emersan Home Appliance, an Iranian company as well as Akbar Ebrahimi, chairman of Pakshouma consumer goods company were designated as home appliances top entrepreneurs.

The ceremony, an initiative of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (TCCIMA), also honoured intellectuals Mohammad Ali Movahhed, a renowned author of history and literature, and Ezatollah Fooladvand, a prolific translator of philosophy books.

The award was also given to the founders of Aparat and Digikala, two biggest digital startups that have been able to be the second most favourite of the Iranian Internet users after Google.

Mohammad Javad Shakuri Moghaddam is co-founder of Aparat and online streaming platform Filimo, the Iranian equivalents of YouTube and Netflix, which are blocked due to internal regulations. Aparat, the online video-sharing and watching platform is now the most popular website in the country after Google with almost 36 million monthly visitors from Iran and other Persian-speaking countries, namely Afghanistan and Tajikistan, says Shakuri Moghaddam.

Digikala, a giant e-commerce company that pioneered online shopping in Iran, was created in 2007 by twin brothers Hamid and Saeed Mohammadi.

Iran's equivalent of Amazon now accounts for about 90% of online retail market. The internet e-commerce leader also includes companies that provide services in the IT and communications sectors.

Mohammdi brothers, founders of Digikala, Iranian e-commerce giant, awared Amin al-Zarb medal (Photo: Young Journalists Club, Mojtaba Arabzadeh) 

'Intelligent move'

Shakuri Moghaddam praised Tehran Chamber's initiative to award the Amin al-Zarb medal to digital platforms. "It's a sign of how intelligent the Iran Chamber of Commerce is to realise the importance of digital commerce," he told Iran Chamber Newsroom.  

"I think the award is very important and it shows that Digikala has been able to attract the attention of other people active in these fields," said Saeed Mohammadi in a phone interview with Iran Chamber Newsroom. He added that the medal shows how Iran Chamber of Commerce is moving towards recognising new technologies and Internet-based trade.

"First I thought the Chamber would have a traditional structure and only pay attention to older generation producers or manufactureres, however, this is a sign that the private sector body is a modern entity," he added.

Amin al-Zarb, pioneer of Iran private sector

Haj Mohammad Hassan Amin al-Zarb was a merchant during Naser al-Din Shah of the Qajar dynasty that ruled the country from 1785 to 1925. He urged then Iranian king to support the traders against foreigners who exported their merchandise into the country through their good relations with the government and authorities. He founded the first union of Iranian traders, called Assembly of Merchants, in 1883. The assembly has gone down into the Iranian history as the country's first parliament 26 years before the Constitutional Revolution led to the formation of a parliament where people sent their representatives. The Assembly of Merchants was the foundation of today's Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture. 

An undates picture of Haj Mohammad Hassan Amin al-Zarb (left) at his shop  

His son, Mohammad Hossein also founded Tehran Chamber of Commerce that was aimed at helping then merchants to better coordinate their effiorts at a time when the State was heavily involved in economic activities. 

 Iran’s Economic Nobel Prize

Tehran Chamber of Commerce President Massoud Khansari said in an interview last year that he wants Amin al-Zarb award to be the Iranian equivalent of the Economic Nobel Prize.

“The nominees’ achievement is even more important than that of Bill Gates — the American business magnate and entrepreneur — as he made his progress in the US society where ground is much more prepared for such an advancement, but our entrepreneurs have achieved their present status in the face of all the restrictions and hardships,” Khansari was cited by the Iranian media as saying in 2017.

“We want Amin al-Zarb Medal to be on a par with Economic Nobel Prize,” Khansari stressed.

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