We can go to the market to find suppliers, distributors and retailers to connect with the New Zealand companies - Tofigh Alizadeh, founder and director, IranConnect\u201cImagine New Zealand 10 to 15 years ago - slow communication networks, expensive internet and with limited apps and systems for businesses. There are no established e-business platforms like TradeMe or eBay. \u201cThat is Iran today.\u201d But unlike New Zealand, Iran has a population of 80 million - it is a big consumer market, says Tofigh Alizadeh, founder and director of IranConnect. Alizadeh established IranConnect two months ago in partnership with Graham Roberts, former CEO at Turners Auctions and his former boss. Alizadeh was his CIO. To them the lifting of the trading sanctions against Iran, following its compliance with the global nuclear accord, highlighted the opportunities available for Kiwi companies that want to expand into the Middle East, says Alizadeh. \u201cWe can go to the market to find suppliers, distributors and retailers to connect with the New Zealand companies,\u201d he says. No captionCIOs have to shift from spending to revenue generation. This is more challenging than fighting for funding, or chasing bigger IT budgets.Tofigh Alizadeh, IranConnect A frequent conversation they have with New Zealand companies, is defining the product range these companies want to promote in Iran and the rest of the Middle East. \u201cWe do the market research, we do the groundwork. Then we come back with a recommendation on who are the top distributors in this category. We then show the product to the retailers and we start promoting the product or service on behalf of the manufacturers or producers.\u201d Companies attempting this on their own will find it costly and have difficulty in making contacts, explains Alizadeh. Two years ago, Alizadeh went back to Iran to work as chief operating officer for Brandlines, an Iranian trading company. Before that he was group chief operating officer for NZ Plumbers Merchants and CIO\/general manager of business strategy and planning at Turners Auctions. His earlier roles included client manager at HP and CIO at Sweetline in Palmerston North. \u201cICT, food, education, travel, tourism - they are all going to be absolutely huge for Kiwi companies who are looking to take advantage of the available opportunities,\u201d\u201d says Alizadeh. Iran expects economic growth of more than 5 per cent in 2016 and to do this, they are going to leap frog in some areas such as communications and IT systems in manufacturing, distribution, retail and agriculture, says Alizadeh. He says the average age is about 30 years old, literacy is high at 83 per cent and this figure is higher, 93 per cent, for the younger generation, the millennials. At any given time, there are more than three million tertiary students. The average wage\/salary is around $350 to $400 a month, he adds. Alizadeh says some of the challenges Kiwi companies will encounter are culture, language and post-sanction business issues that are still being worked through. These include the international access to banking systems. At present this could be a challenge for Kiwi companies wanting to bring revenue back to New Zealand, says Alizadeh. \u201cThis is an impact of the isolated financial systems but will be resolved quickly,\u201d he states. \u201cGiven that, there are still a lot of companies looking at Iran.\u201d These include companies across the ditch and global technology companies that are rushing to Iran to do develop e-commerce or business related applications for different applications.No captionICT, food, education, travel, tourism - they are all going to be absolutely huge for Kiwi companies who are looking to take advantage of the available opportunities.Tofigh Alizadeh, IranConnect Entrepreneurial mindsetAlizadeh says his ICT and operations roles background have prepared him for his current business. \u201cI realise I have had opportunities, moving into CIO, COO totransformational roles,because of my business achievements and technology management background.\u201d \u201cI enjoyed being a CIO because it gave me a visibility and involvement to all aspects of the business,\u201d he says. \u201cWe were touching every part of the business from a technology perspective. Being part of the executive team, I also was part of the decision making process. \u201cI transferred the knowledge, disciplines and what I know about technology, and applied it to the business.\u201d This he says he did by coming up with new and innovative ideas to either grow or diversify the business. \u201cThat is how you transfer your role from a technology base to a business base. And that is how you get recognised for your business skills\u2026that innovation is not about technology, it is all about the business.\u201d Working as a CIO he learned a great deal from his peers and did a lot of research on business trends and industries. \u201cI was probably more of a risk taker than some of the other technology leaders,\u201d he says. \u201cMoving from a technology manager to a CIO to a COO was my goal the whole time. I was consciously working towards that.\u201d He says being involved with the executive team had provided him an opportunity to expand his business knowledge. \u201cWhen you sit at the executive table you contribute, you debate, you discuss. You have to fight for things that you feel strongly about and you have a point of view that needs to be brought across. \u201cIs it [your idea] always right? No, but until you apply it and have your say, you do not know.\u201d \u201cYou have to shift from spending to revenue generation,\u201d he says. This, he notes, is more challenging than fighting for funding, or chasing bigger IT budgets. \u201cCIOs need to build on their knowledge and skills, so they can apply the different sets of skills as the business changes,\u201d he states. \u201cWhatever the platform, the application, or software, the business continues to grow and change and the technology needs to meet the requirements.\u201dRelated: Ross Hughson: Into the startup worldNo captionSend news tips and comments to email@example.comFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinapFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nzSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.Join us on Facebook.Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, CDOs, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.