Meet Iran’s First Female Manufacturer, Who Is A Victim Of President Donald Trump: She fought through a male-dominated world to become perhaps Iran’s first female manufacturing boss and was on the cusp of significant success with the help of a European investor.
Meet Iran’s First Female Manufacturer, Who Is A Victim Of President Donald Trump
Until Donald Trump brought her crashing back to earth.
When Leila Daneshvar was a little girl, she used to sit on the floor of her father’s workshop, asking for small jobs.
He was a mechanic, and I always had the most fun when I was in the garage with him, she tells AFP.
But in those days, there were no mechanical careers in Iran, so I went to college in India. Even there, I was the only girl in my year of 139 students. I had a hard time.
But she persevered. Now 37, she runs her own company in Iran, making mobility equipment for hospitals and the elderly.
I went to Europe and saw how disabled people live happy, independent lives. I wished my people had this equipment, and I thought. It does not look complicated. I am a mechanical engineer I can do it.
The breakthrough for the company is called KTMA and selling under the brand “Lord,” came in the early year 2016, just after Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers came into force, lifting international sanctions.
Within a couple of months, a Swedish investor, Anna Russberg, had agreed to buy 25 percent of the company, bringing much-needed business acumen and capital.
Leila had a reputation for quality production, which was practically unknown here. But I needed to turn the business upside-down, says Anna.
It worked. People can tell we were a right mix. We respect each other’s knowledge. She is the engineer, and I am the businesswoman.
Being women in Iran’s patriarchal business world can be tricky, but also an advantage.
Hijab is difficult when you are a manufacturer. You have to climb things, go below items, says Leila, laughing.
But being a woman has its advantages. Everyone remembers you.
Anna is adding People don’t know how to treat us accurately, which is useful in negotiations.
Things were looking up low production costs meant they could charge five times less than foreign firms, and they were doubling sales each year, finally landing a major contract with Qatari hospitals.
Even before he pulled the US out of the nuclear deal, the American president’s constant threats to re-impose sanctions had a chilling effect on trade.
It soon became hard to import critical raw materials, mainly stainless steel.
We already had problems in getting raw materials, and now it is impossible.
Either I have to close the factory, or have to continue with much higher prices, says Leila.
We had to let four or five workers go last month because we can not pay their salaries, and it breaks my heart.
She watched Trump deliver his speech on May 8, reimposing sanctions on Iran, with a mix of horror and fury, particularly when he claims to be on the side of the Iranian people against their government.
That made me so angry. These sanctions are not on the government; it is on the people. I can give less to disabled people, to the elderly.
Our saying was that we are providing European quality at an affordable price. Can I do that anymore? I don’t know.
Anna remains defiantly positive.
Iran has 10 million older or injured people who can use our product. With or without Trump, we still have a business, she says.
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