A teacher who became the king of sauce

Interview with Shahrokh Zahiri the founder of Mahram 


Interview with Shahrokh Zahiri the founder of Mahram.

  • Do you agree to start the interview with your city of born: Malayer?

I’m 86 years old. I’m from Malayer and when I was two, my father moved to Tehran. I was the older child. When I was 8, my father became head of department of finance in Qom and we moved to Qom. I went to primary and high school in this city. When I was at the fifth grade in high school, my father died and I became family sponsor. Because of that I was exempted from military service. At that time, I was employed as a teacher in department of culture in Qom.

  • Which year are you talking about and how much was your income?​

I’m talking about the year 1331 and my salary was 64 Tomans. I also earned 12 Tomans and 8 Rials as a reward.

  • Did you continue your study?

Because I had other goals, I decided to continue my study. In fact, my goal was continuing my studies. At that time, I wanted to go to Hozeh Elmieh. I did so and studied there for two years. In 1329, I was accepted in law major at Tehran University. I lived in Karaj for two years and then I went to Tehran. When I moved to Tehran, I started teaching in Jannat high school.

  • Did you continue teaching in that high school?

The salary I earned was not enough, so I decided to enter the market. At that time one of the famous factories was Derakhshan Yazd which made clothes for military organs. One the branches of this factory was in Tehran and I was employed there as a collector.

  • Those days were the peak of Dr. Mossaddegh era; did you have political tendencies?

Yes, I supported Dr. Mossaddegh.

  • Wasn’t it hard to work in a store in spite of having university degree in law?

Never; I went to the store early in the morning and cleaned every shelves and even the sidewalk in front of the store.

  • Until when did you continue your job as a collector?

When I went to the store, I didn’t have much work to do. I just sat on a chair. There were a number of sellers, one accountant and a cashier. Every night, these persons had disputes about accounting and accused each other. I wanted to find the problem and solve it. After a while, I found that the main problem is related to invoice. I could solve the problem and told it to CEO of the factory. This was the milestone of my entrepreneurship.

One day they received a letter from police department. This department had stated that they were not going to buy clothes from this factory anymore. It was very dramatic.

  • What was your reaction?

I went to police department and begged to talk to the head of procurement office. When I met him, I said that I was student and support the family. I said if they didn’t buy clothes from Derakhshan Yazd, I couldn’t study and earn money for my family. The head of department said they would give a letter and continue buying from our factory.

  • What is the impact of this letter on your business and position in the factory?

Mr. Harati ordered to reward me 500 Tomans. I didn’t even know how to spend such a big money! Since then, he wanted me to do his personal works. When he founded another company in the field of importing automobiles, I became responsible for opening letters of credit and customs clearance of vehicles from the port of Khorramshahr.

  • What were your most important characteristics that led to your success?

Righteousness, commitment and integrity in my work.

  • Then you founded a company in the field of foods without having experience in this field?

I didn’t have any experience in the field and I had to choose a name. I chose Mahram because it’s easy to pronounce it.

  • How and with how much capital did you start the story of Mahram?

I didn’t have much money for launching a factory but I knew a person in Yazd who was very rich and I had talked about launching a business with his capital and my management with him. I called him and talked about opening Mahram factory. He accepted. Thus I opened Mahram in 1349.

  • How much was the initial capital for opening Mahram?

One million Tomans.

  • How many persons were involved at the beginning?

Besides me and the investor, 13 persons were employed.

  • Where was the factory built?

Alborz industrial complex in Qazvin and in an area of 11.000 square meters.

  • Didn’t you have any experience in food industry?

We produced Mahram sauce based on the model of Kraft Food company in the US. We even used official system and sterilizing methods. At that time, I myself didn’t know what sauce is.

  • Didn’t we have food factory in Iran until that time?

We had but Iran food industry was among the bad industries. Yeko Yek and Chin Chin were active in the field. But food industry didn’t have standards, organization and schedule. The quality of products was very low. On the other hand, women were housewives and didn’t use ready foods.

  • How did you wanted to sell such a product which was unknown for the people?

I had told to 20 to 30 friends and relatives of mine to go to different stores and asked them for sauce. I paid the money for buying these sauces. This strategy worked. In this way, the seller would think that this product have many fans and order it.

  • What is the most important factor of your success in Mahram?

I think having a goal was the first factor of my success. Honesty, resistance and hope are other factors.

  • You started Mahram with 13 persons; how many people were employed during the peak era?

Mahram had seven factories during growth stages; in general, 400 to 500 persons were employed in these factories.

  • What was the value of Mahran in 1375 when it became a well-known brand in the country?

We entered exchange and they took the factory from us.

  • Didn’t you want to enter the exchange?

We had to do so; after the war because of economic problems, central bank reduced private companies’ credits by 50 percent. Thus we faced problems in buying ingredients. They suggested that we made Mahram a public company so that money would be injected to the company.

  • How much of the company’s share was given to the exchange?

We kept 55 percent of the share for ourselves and gave 45 percent to the exchange.

  • Where did problems start?

Unfortunately a group came and bought the shares and entered board of directors. They provided programs which were not effective. At last, they suggested us to sell our shares!

  • What was their problem?

They wanted to take the factory from us.

  • And you had to sell Mahram?

Yes, they paid an amount of money in cash and gave a 3-month check as well.

  • How much money did you receive for selling Mahram?

Mahram had 60 to 70-billion-Toman income per year. But they gave us 3 billion Tomans and a check for the rest of it. But we had to give it back to them.

  • How much was the value of seven factories of Mahram in 1375?

More than 30 billion Tomans.

  • Now Mr. Zahiri doesn’t have even an office in Mahram; how did you deal with this situation?

It was hard for us and we had to leave everything. After I left Mahram, some of the personnel asked them to name one of the halls of the factory after Shahrokh Zahiri but they fired those ones who had recommended this.

  • Are you aware of current Mahram condition?

Mahram is not well these days. Mahram could become a big brand in the world but it is an ordinary factory across Iran.

  • Didn’t you think of opening another factory after Mahram?

When we launched concentrate factory in jiroft, there was a factory in the field of mineral water which we wanted to add to Mahram. But it didn’t have profit thus we assigned its CEO to others. I worked in some other factories as an advisor like SunStar. Now I’m a consultant at the Chamber of Commerce.

  • Have you ever exported your products?

We exported sauce to America when there were sanctions about importing to Iran. Because my brother lived in the US, when I went there, I visited shopping centers and assess the quality of their products. Also I visited Germany and found out that they used garlic. I bought one and brought it to Iran. We made pickled garlic and exported it to Germany.

  • How did you export to the US?

Export to the US was somehow political; U.S.A had put some sanctions on us in the field of food, carpet and etc. I knew a person who was the owner of IranGolab and I had seen his products in the US. I asked him about the way he export his products and he said trough Dubai and in the name of a Pakistani brand. We did so and export Mahram products like pickles in boxes with Pakistani name and Mahram brand on the bottles.

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