Why The Luxe London sells luxury to Iran… from Manchester

14 Oct, 2016

One under-appreciated thing about young adults who have grown up surrounded by the internet is that the world can feel very small to them. Ventures that might have seemed crazy to older people are perfectly possible when you feel just as connected to the other side of the world as you do the other side of the road.

I mean, why not start an e-commerce business from Manchester, taking advantage of the glamorous allure of London to sell fashion and luxury goods to customers in Iran? That’s exactly what Iranian-British brother and sister duo Sadra and Arefeh Hosseini have done with The Luxe London. Now they have their sights on becoming the Net-a-Porter of Iran and the Middle East.

“We have lived half our lives in Iran and the other half here in the UK,” says Sadra. “We have a lot of friends and relatives back in Iran and they constantly asked us to buy and send over products to them over the years as there have been sanctions on Iran for the past 40 years. Over the past year the sanctions were slowly removed and we forecasted this. We knew it would be a huge gold rush.”

Arefeh and Sadra Hosseini of The Luxe London
Arefeh and Sadra Hosseini

Iran is generally portrayed in the media as a secretive and dangerous state, but Sadra hopes he can help change that perception. “We’d like to see Iran become the great country it once was. The Iranian people are educated, liberal and open-minded, and we want to be able to help in anyway we can.”

Proving the market

Sadra says the siblings started small, testing the market with a simple website. “Our hypothesis was quickly proven with the amount of sales coming through. Our market research has shown this truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity for any founders who understand the market and can deal with its subtleties.”

The Luxe London took part in this year’s Ignite accelerator programme in Manchester. Despite initial reservations that they’d not learn much from it, they found it was a valuable process. “It showed us what we were going for was big and we were on the right track,” says Sadra.


North, looking east

So why Manchester? It seems an odd location for a company with ‘London’ in its name that addresses a market 3,000 miles away. Firstly, the Hosseinis call Manchester home, but secondly, they believe they can thrive in the city.

“Manchester is a great place for startups, as the cost of living is much lower than the South. With support, it allows them to flourish, instead of wither and die from unnecessary outside pressures. A startup needs to be nurtured as they go through the delicate process of growth, especially if you are bootstrapping. For me Manchester beats any other city in the UK with a good mix of the startup community and great quality companies,” says Sadra.

While he admits there can be challenges dealing with a market so far away, he says they can all be overcome using new technologies and some intuition.

“This is the great thing about setting up an international company in 2016, nothing is out of reach even if you are half a world away. For us, being based in the UK gives us credibility to our customers that they will receive what they have ordered and nothing will be fake, which is a huge issue in Iran and other countries such as China.”

‘The West is tapped out’

With expansion into other Middle Eastern countries and China in the Hosseinis’ sights, Sadra thinks more Western entrepreneurs should look East.

“I believe the West is tapped out and it’s time to start looking towards developing countries where the quality of living is starting to increase and people are gaining more financial freedom,” he says. “There are so many opportunities out there that if you are hardworking enough and passionate enough, you can make great successes happen.”

Read next: This hackspace fuels a small town’s creativity and digital ambitions

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