An Iranian official says at least 180,000 families in Iran are directly making money using the popular messaging app Telegram, but they may find it hard to make ends meet once their access to the app is restricted.
According to Saeid Mahdiyoon, the Basij commander of Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, 180,000 families are currently involved in the online business, which has a total turnover of tens of millions of dollar.
Afshin Kolahi, a deputy head of new and knowledge-based businesses of Iran Chamber of Commerce, recently noted that 10,000 to 15,000 businesses are currently run in Iran completely through the cyberspace.
He says the two numbers are not conflicting, because 10 to 15 thousand Telegram-based businesses can directly or indirectly create jobs for 180,000 families.
There are 754,516 Farsi channels in Telegram with an average daily visit of 2.5 billion, a Farsi report by Shahrvand newspaper said. Out of these channels, 264,347 are regularly updated, according to the data provided by Iran’s National Cyberspace Research Centre.
Seyyed Morteza Mousavian, the head of the IT Development and Digital Media Centre of Iran’s Culture Ministry, says 19,000 channels have been registered by the centre so far.
“9,000 of them either sell their products or offer services,” he added, stressing that such figures only involve those who have officially registered their channels.
If we accept that 180,000 Iranian families are earning a living using Telegram, then almost 0.75 per cent of Iranian families are making money using the messaging app. Given the low costs of creating jobs in the IT sector, this figure can be rapidly raised through the development of the cyberspace in the country.
Mahdiyoon believes domestic and indigenous messaging apps must be supported and reinforced to be used once Telegram stops offering its services to Iranian people.
But is it really possible to replace Telegram with a home-grown version? Why hasn’t any Iranian app been successful so far in recruiting members and developing the number of its users?
Kolahi says blocking Telegram or a prescriptive use of similar Iranian apps or any other limitation will not be successful in convincing people to use an alternative messaging application. “We have repeatedly tested these methods, and wasted financial resources on them.”
“The market must be a competitive one. If an appropriate strategy is chosen in the design and replacement, the indigenous version can quickly find its market. A good product will soon satisfy its users,” he added.
During the days when Telegram was temporarily restricted amid the recent protests in Iran, Kolahi told Shahrvand that only a limited number of Telegram users temporarily switched to Iranian apps, mostly for family chats or receiving educational contents.
“Business owners have not yet made any serious decision to switch to these messaging apps,” he noted, stressing that an online shopping centre usually spends three years on attracting followers.
“Online business owners believe switching to another network like WhatsApp would lead to the bankruptcy of that business as they may lose their customers,” Kolahi said, adding that businesses do not welcome the switching.
With an Alexa ranking of 19 in Iran and over 40 million users in the country, Telegram is one of the most-visited websites in the Islamic Republic, but these days it is intertwined with many economic, social, and even political issues of the country.