EghtesadOnline: Supporting startups has been on top of President Hassan Rouhani’s agenda since he assumed the mantle of the government in 2013. One of the government entities spearheading the efforts has been the ICT Ministry. During a recent press conference, officials with the ministry outlined the administration’s latest strategies involved in the provision of assistance to these burgeoning firms.
In recent years, the ICT Ministry has been working toward expansion of startups, either through the provision of monetary aid or offering mentorship services.
Hassan Samimi, secretary of the working group at the ministry in charge of providing loans to startups and knowledge-based firms, stated that since 2015, 365 cases of loan applications worth 1.87 trillion rials ($44.5 million) have been filed with more than half the firms receiving financial aid packages.
He explains, “225 of these startups were Tehran-based and the remaining 140 came from outside the capital. Up until now, with the ministry’s support, 195 companies have managed to convince banks and related authorities to grant them the loans, and 1.05 trillion rials ($25 million) have been paid to these firms,” reported the public relations office of the ministry, according to Financial Tribune.
Samimi pointed to some revisions implemented in the provision of aid packages, in line with the introduction of schemes such as National Information Network, the latest version of the state development plan, as well as a document specifying the priorities of cyberspace development as per the Supreme Council of Cyberspace directives.
Development plans are schemes outlining government strategies in its budget planning for the next five years. The Sixth Development Plan provides general guidelines for the period between 2016-21.
Previously all loan requests were needed to be processed by the ICT Ministry in Tehran. According to Samimi, the authorities are launching a platform to fast-track the process enhancing access of startups based outside of the capital to the services.
The ministry’s technology and innovation deputy, Nasrollah Jahangard, also said a scheme dubbed “Nou Afarain” (literally means ‘innovative’) has been put forward by the government, with the aim of efficiently handling the provision of services to domestic startups and knowledge-based firms.
Jahangard talked about the ban on import of 19 technology-related items in order to boost the sale of locally-made products.
In order to facilitate the marketing aspect, several Iranian eastern provinces are poised to form a specialized IT fair in Afghanistan with the help of the Industries Ministry along with Trade Promotion Organization which are working toward the expansion of these exhibitions in the region. Elecomp and Telecom are current similar events held annually in Tehran.
Small firms and app developers can receive initial loans of up to 150 million rials ($3,571). The loans are provided by Omid Entrepreneurship Fund that supports mobile app developers and young entrepreneurs.
According to Jahangard, the ministry is well aware that major projects require extensive investments which will be provided through other schemes and with the assistance of other funds.
Production units depend on money supplies to get their businesses going and the aid packages set aside for them can reach 30 billion rials ($714,285), he noted.
Accelerators and venture capital funds will be granted low-interest loans worth half the seed money invested in their businesses.
According to Jahangard, each local messaging app has received 50 billion rials ($1.19 million) in financial aid.