The United States has sanctions in place that prevent companies from doing business in Iran due to Iran’s active nuclear weapons program. The sanctions are in place to keep U.S. companies from aiding in Iran’s work on the program in any way, which the U.S. believes is a threat against both its own population and its allies around the world.
Despite not being allowed to sell devices in Iran, sales of Apple’s products in the country have taken off thanks to underground trade routes in the Middle East. Companies such as Radan Mac and Apple Iran (not affiliated with Apple, Inc.) turn to distributors in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia to purchase Apple products and resell them within Iranian borders.
The import of these products is getting tougher and tougher for these companies, as stringent new U.S. sanctions have been raised against Iran’s financial sector. These sanctions have caused the devaluation of Iran’s currency, the rial, and have made international payments from Iranian banks much more difficult. Embargoes against Iran has also made direct shipments from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia much more problematic, especially with the large shipments customary with large amounts of computer products.
While alternative shipment routes exist, they incur significant duties, shipment, and customs fees that make the process much more expensive. Coupled with a declining currency and the spending cuts that traditionally come with it, selling Apple products in Iran has become a much riskier and difficult business. Still, demand for Apple products in Iran is only rising, and has translated to significant business for these retailers. Both Radan Mac and Apple Iran claim an ever-growing clientele that includes the likes of musicians, artists, and businessmen. Radan Mac’s founder has personally installed over 4,000 Macs in the country since starting the company.
Of course, getting the hardware is only half the problem for Iranian customers, as applications, music and other App Store purchases are banned in the country. To circumvent these restrictions, Iranian Mac owners use randomly-selected addresses in other regions, where they are able to purchase electronic gift cards to make purchases from the OSX and iOS App Stores.
In all, Mac business is booming in Iran, even though Apple has no presence there. It’s clear the United States wants to curb this trend, though entrepreneurs in the country continue to find ways to evade U.S. sanctions.