Glass cleaners in Iran and other Persian Gulf nations are selling glass cleaners, cleaning equipment and other goods to customers in the region, a sign of how lucrative Iran’s economy is, and the risks that such exports pose to other businesses.
“There are lots of glass cleaning shops in the UAE, UAE citizens can buy it, but not Iranians,” Mohammad Ali Hajizadeh, an Iranian businessman and a member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Al Jazeera.
“There is a lot of business here, and we have a lot to offer.
It’s not like we’re not doing business in other countries, but it’s not the best situation for business.”
The trade in glass cleaning and other glass cleaning products is worth about $US60,000 ($64,000) a day, Hajizadedh said.
“In the UAE [we’re] selling our glass cleaners and cleaning equipment to UAE citizens,” he said.
“If you’re an Emirati, you can buy a glass cleaner for $1,500 ($1,100) [in Dubai].
That’s a big difference compared to a Western customer.”
Glass cleaners have long been a staple of the Iranian economy, and are the primary reason for the country’s rapid rise in the global economic market.
The United States has estimated that Iran’s trade in non-metallic glass cleaners has risen from $US4.3 billion ($6.7 billion) in 2011 to more than $US9.7 million ($14.9 million) in 2016.
The Iranian glass cleaner market is a $3 billion business.
“It’s a very important market for us,” said Mohammad Zaman, a Dubai-based glass cleaner salesman who works for the company.
“This is a market where the glass cleaners are sold at a fair price, and there is no foreign exchange involved.
It is a very reliable market.”
A glass cleaner’s price is set at about 50% of the price of a typical household glass cleaner.
But the glass cleaner industry is becoming a bigger part of the economy in the Gulf, with the UAE exporting around 70% of its glass cleaning business to Iran.
“We sell to other countries in the GCC, we buy their glass cleaners at a higher price, so it is a competitive market,” Hajizadesh said, adding that his company’s sales increased from $1.3 million ($1.6 million) to $1 million ($2.1 million) last year.
“The glass cleaner business in the [Gulf] is very important to us,” he added.
“We have an export pipeline of 50,000 tonnes per year.”
The economic impact of the glass cleaning trade has been widely reported in the US and elsewhere, including a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that found that the glass industry is an economic engine for the UAE economy, adding: “This [glass] industry has become a significant contributor to the UAE’s economy.”
But Iran has faced challenges with the glass-cleaning trade, with Iran’s government limiting imports to small amounts and banning imports from neighbouring Iraq.
In recent years, Iranian officials have been cracking down on the trade, accusing its neighbouring countries of exporting harmful goods to the country.
“In the past, we had some concerns about the glass trade.
But now we have more security, and security has increased a lot,” Hajazadeh said of the trade.
“The trade is very profitable and a very good source of income for the government.”
A large amount of Iranian exports go to the Gulf countries, including the UAE and Bahrain.
The UAE exported more than half of its economic output to Iran last year, and according to the Dubai Economic Development Authority, about 20% of that was glass cleaning equipment.
In the Gulf region, glass cleaning is a major business for businesses.
In the UAE alone, there are over 100 glass cleaners.
The country has a major glass factory that is producing around 80,000 glass cleaners a day.
“They’re used to selling glass, but we are very proud of the product,” Hajjizadehs owner said.
Glass cleaners can be purchased in small shops, supermarkets, or at pharmacies.
In Iran, it is not uncommon to see small stores selling the same products as larger ones, according to Hajjazadehs manager.
“People are selling their glass cleaner at 50% to 60% cheaper than it was in the past,” he explained.
“So it’s an economic activity that’s very lucrative for the economy.
We have a big export pipeline.”