February 27, 2017 – Iran’s economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil, village agriculture, and small-scale private trading and service ventures. So it seems like an unusual outpost for a recruiter.
But Alexander Hughes’ Iranian office has now officially opened for business. Shayan Shadfar and Christophe Laurent-Atthalin are managing the new operation.
CEO Julien Rozet, Mr. Shadfar and Mr. Laurent-Atthalin said in a joint statement: “Our offices in Tehran show the very strong interest of the global economic world in the Iranian market. We are proud to be the first global executive search firm returning to Iran to support businesses here in finding top talent for their great ventures in this promising country.”
Iran is an important market for the search firm’s existing customers, said Mr. Rozet, “and for so many Western or European companies that are willing to return or to establish business with, and in, this industrialized and advanced country of 80 million people.” Alexander Hughes has been in the Middle East for years, but its partners said the specificities of Iran, including its size, its potential, and the growing demand of its clients have made putting a physical presence on the ground essential now.
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Iran’s economy is a mixture of central planning, oil, agriculture, and small-scale trading and service ventures. Unemployment has remained above 10 percent since 1997, and the unemployment rate for women is almost double that of men. But the country maintains leading industries in auto manufacturing and transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food & agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals across the Middle East.
And that’s where Alexander Hughes hopes to pin its future in this critical regional hub. With more than 54 offices, Alexander Hughes, headquartered in Paris, has more than 130 consultants operating in 10 sectors, ranging from financial services and technology to life sciences, industrial manufacturing and consumer markets. Those consultants aim to transfer their expertise to help forge and deepen client relationships in Iran.
The firm already has a large presence in the Middle East, across Africa and in India, with offices in Algiers, Casablanca, Dakar, Abidjan, Cotonou, Lomé, Douala, Johannesburg, Jeddah, Beirut, Istanbul, Pune, Delhi, and Bangalore. The firm recently added a new office in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Based in Dubai, Thomas Duret had been appointed managing partner for Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E.
Mr. Rozet began his career in the U.S. as part of the M&A team of BNP Paribas in New York. He then joined Arthur Andersen’s auditing and evaluation team in Paris. He joined Alexander Hughes 12 years ago and became president of its management board in 2009. His father, Maurice, a noted pioneer of professional recruiting in France, founded the firm and serves as president.
Julien Rozet recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss why he’s decided to embark on such an ambitious move to a country that has been steeped in turmoil for decades. Here’s a brief excerpt.
Julien — why Iran, why now?
Alexander Hughes’ vocation is to accompany its clients globally to help them solve their crucial human capital needs. Where they go, we go. Our focus on Iran started with the progressive reintegration of the country into the global economy. In some ways, we now see ourselves leading clients back as they restart their operations here. As they return, they require top local, on-the-ground executives, either from local backgrounds or from the diaspora abroad or as expatriates.
What’s the potential?
It’s important to keep in mind that until 2009 many global companies had large businesses in Iran, with some of them staying active during the toughest sanctions period. This has led to a very fast restart and expansion of growth activities of foreign companies in Iran, and it’s a market they know already. Obviously, acting fast to be the first Western search firm to return to Iran is something we see as a great opportunity. At this stage, we feel that the opportunity to serve Iranian companies locally or abroad will be limited. But the future looks bright. Right now, our focus is on helping our foreign company clients reestablish themselves here.
What can you tell us about the mid-level and senior-level recruitment market?
The level of quality of the local people is in fact very good when speaking about technical positions, mostly based on hard skills, such as engineering or manufacturing. The language level in English is quite good. But the quality and depth of the local candidate pool is more limited for soft skills-based positions (HR, project management, marketing, P&L and people management) or finance positions.
“Our vocation is to accompany clients globally to help them solve their crucial human capital needs. Where they go, we go . . . In some ways, we now see ourselves leading clients back as they restart their operations here. As they return, they require top on-the-ground executives, either from local backgrounds or abroad.”
For these, it will be advisable to repatriate Iranians from abroad. This has to be done carefully, though, as the people having left Iran as kids or prior to the revolution may find it hard to acclimate to the business and social culture despite their speaking the language and knowing the Iranian culture. The recruitment market at this stage is limited to local lower level recruitment agencies. Search is almost unknown to local companies or candidates. Our job, over time, will be to enlighten them.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media