Ten On The Weekend is a weekly feature on IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each weekend, we ask the same ten questions to a different industry figure, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might in an ordinary business setting.
This weekend’s guest is Kianoush Mahmoudi, Managing Director of Tehran-based Cankash Company.
How do you spend your weekends?
It’s been exactly one month since I started my lockdown and all the weekdays are the same. But, referring to life before Coronavirus, weekends are when I catch up on my studies. Running a business and studying at the same time does not provide much leisure time, so I might not be free to enjoy each weekend but once or twice a month on the weekends I go to see some amazing nature or other sights, not more than few hours from Tehran, be it a beautiful village above the clouds, a waterfall, a mysterious cave in the summer, or snow-covered mountains of Tehran in the winter. Sometimes I even camp with my friends.
What are your top three business goals this year?
To continue to ensure our experience, knowledge, and observations of the market are reflected on our website, ensuring our clients know that not just any solution offered in the market will work for them, or, at least not the way they expect it to. Sometimes, migration solutions are promoted as if getting a residency or a citizenship is as easy as buying a ticket to an amusement park when, in reality, it’s not like that at all and many such “solutions” are actually scams. Solutions do exist, of course, but they often entail requirements that the clients may not be able to satisfy and have not been informed about.
Also, I aim to include more entrepreneur/startup-visa programs on our list of offered services. Until now, our focus has always been on passive-investment programs.
What’s your biggest business concern right now?
Since Mr. Trump took office, some programs – notably Caribbean citizenship by investment programs – began announcing, one by one, that they would not accept Iranian nationals. Some of the new CIPs that have recently opened also made it clear right from the beginning that all Iranians (along with few other nationals) would not be eligible. This is a way for new programs to send a signal that says “our programs are the safest ever,” which, from my perspective, is unnecessary and only a sign of how politicized this industry is.
Also, it reveals a lack of creativity in resorting to newly available technology – such as cryptocurrency – to act independently from political conflicts and processing cases based on its standalone merits – such as whether the applicant can provide the required documents – rather than discriminating for geopolitical reasons.
This industry, by nature, is erratic enough as it is outside Iran. Working in this industry within the Iran market comes with even higher stakes and greater obstacles. Many times in the last few years, we’ve worked to make the right business connections, build up our website, do marketing, train employees, and get experience in a program only to realize suddenly that we cannot work in that direction anymore, forcing us to start over from scratch, probing and experiencing new solutions.
Which book is on your nightstand right now?
My studies on business and wealth management do not give me enough time to read as I wish. I am, however, reading the book A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin, though the progress is slow. The book is about the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Modern Middle East during World War I. The irony in the title speaks for itself and I recommend reading this widely praised history book to anyone who wonders why the Middle East has been a scene of conflicts—including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis, and the general bloody turmoil in the region over the last 100 years.
How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
Investment migration has been our family business for over 25 years here in Iran. My uncle, Mr. Mahmoud Mahmoudi, founded Cankash in Iran in 1995, a pioneer company in this industry in Iran. I joined his line of work immediately after finishing university in 2006. After a few years of career gaps, I came back to Cankash and took office as director.
What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
Each time clients are approved, they call me or come to the office with a smile of satisfaction and a sense of gratitude. During those moments, I feel so proud of what we do! But, to mention more personal moments, there have been two occasions where I felt exceptionally proud.
First, it was when, for the very first time in my life, I had a meeting with a prospective client and I ended the session concluding two contracts with one client. One for a residency program, which would just take around six months to solve his immediate movement problem within the Schengen area, and the other for the Quebec IIP, which would take years but which was aligned with the client’s future settlement plans.
Although it was also a matter of luck that the person coming to my consultancy meeting was cash-ready and willing to take prompt action, I can’t help but think I also did a very good job gaining the trust of someone who did not know our company before and had never imagined taking two measures at the same time.
On the second occasion, I had a phone conversation with a prospective client at the end of which we concluded that our services did not match his circumstances, as a result of which he did not turn into a client. Nonetheless, he was very grateful for the consultancy I had given him and he thanked me for a thorough and honest consultation that helped him find his path. Although he did not become a client and never even set foot in my office, he sent me a present with a big bouquet of flowers. What a nice person! In my experience, most people I have come across in this business, have been very kind-hearted. I am proud to work with such appreciative people, whether or not they become my clients in the end.
Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
The Portugal Highly Qualified Activity visa, also known as the Angel visa program, attracted my attention from the very beginning. It is a brilliant way to attract innovative start-up solutions via a residency by investment program. I found it appealed to my personal values and my sense of ecological responsibility.
At the same time, with its lower investment and settlement requirements and, it could be exactly what a group of my young clients need; a full-fledged investment program that can bring a great deal of value both to clients and the destination country. I immediately promoted this rather unconventional program and actually filed Portugal’s very first HQA visa clients, through an enjoyable and smooth collaboration with the Empowered Startups team.
“Cajoling” clients for this program is not as easy as for conventional programs in which clients invest in more tangible assets. It requires more and longer consulting sessions, and mostly attracts a younger client segment with fewer disposable assets and more knowledge, people who appreciate start-up possibilities and have a greater appetite for risk. My experience, however, tells me that if you truly believe in something, it’s easier to make others believe in it too.
If you could go 10 years back in time, what business decision would you change?
I have learned some invaluable lessons in the last few years thanks to some, let’s say, bad decisions and that’s why I wouldn’t change them. I’d rather learn from them to make better business decisions in the future.
What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
I would say Kai Dai of Kylin Prime. I admire him for running an organization with different but quite interrelated fields including residency and citizenship by investment, banking, family office, research and development, and education.
I especially admire Kylin Prime for producing and distributing high-level global media content, of which I am a reader, and sharing relevant knowledge through their educational activity. My praise for Kai grows out of not just his brilliant success in business but, also, his personality as a humble and caring person. He is a supportive friend and a role model for me.
If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
As I already mentioned, not only is there too much uncertainty about programs for Iranian nationals in this industry but there are also so many scams and false information circulating in the market. As a result, I aim to stay in the MENA region, especially Iran, to keep probing for solutions and routes to offer programs that not only would work for my clients but also meet real needs and expectations as much as possible. I want to firmly stand by my clients’ side and help find solutions for any unforeseen obstacle they may encounter during the process until each and every one of them is successful.
More from the 10 on the Weekend interview series:
- Sam Bayat: “I Know Too Many Secrets”
- Paul Williams: “Politicians Meddle in Successful Programs to Their Detriment”
- Angie Rupert: “My Business Model is Narrow; I’ve Picked a Niche”
- Eric Major: “Our Industry Deserves Some of the Bad Press it Gets”
- David Lesperance: “Governments Are Increasingly Harassing the Wealthy”
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.