Snapp: Scaling under Sanctions in Iran (A)
The case opens in November 2019 as Eyad Alkassar and Mahmoud Fouz, co-founders of Iran's first and leading ride-hailing platform, Snapp, find out about Apple's and Google's decision to remove all Iranian apps from their respective application stores. The case takes us through the founding story of Snapp in 2014 to how the company grew to reach two million daily rides in Iran servicing 30 million customers through its two million registered drivers in 100 cities in Iran. The case then goes into detail about how the removal of all Iran-based apps from application stores limited Snapp's operations and its go-to-market channels. Next, the case chronicles how the co-founders focused on finding operational and technological solutions to minimize Snapp's reliance on U.S. technology following the U.S.' withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and instating the secondary sanctions on Iran. The case highlights the challenges of operating under sanctions and the different ways the co-founders try to find to keep Snapp alive in a market that had been out of reach for Western investors. In 2019, Snapp had become the largest Internet company in the Middle East yet it was increasingly difficult to navigate the operational hurdles. The co-founders could not help but think whether it was now time to reach out to major media outlets and launch a public relations campaign to create awareness around the unexpected decision that had put the very existence of many companies at risk, including Snapp's. Alkassar and Fouz needed to weigh it against Snapp's realities. The case then asks: Should they go public with their story, or would it be better to stay under the radar and focus on efficiency and sustainability of operations?