Identification and Prioritization of Business Opportunities in the Aras Free Trade Zone

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 MA in Entrepreneurship, New Business Trend in Kashan University, Kashan, Iran

3 MA in MBA, Farabi Campus, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


Opportunity is a central concept within the entrepreneurship field, and there is now a critical mass of literature on the concept. Entrepreneurial opportunity emerges in individual aspirations with economic and social conditions perceived as favorable to create a new product or service, either in an existing market or a new one. The concept of an ‘entrepreneurial opportunity’ is central for the study and theory of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are individuals who pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Without entrepreneurial opportunities, therefore, there will be no ‘entrepreneurship’, conceptually speaking. The most important exception is the literature in management and organization theory on opportunity discovery or opportunity identification, or what Shane (2003) calls the "individual–opportunity nexus”. The opportunity identification involves not only technical skills like financial analysis and market research, but also less tangible forms of creativity, team building, problem solving, and leadership. While value can be created not only by starting new activities but also by improving the operation of existing activities, research in opportunity identification tends to emphasize on new activities. These could include creation of a new firm or starting a new business arrangement, introducing a new product or service, or developing a new method of production. 
 Investment in one hand is one of the most important factors in economic growth and development in every country and on the other hand, it is not a casual phenomenon. The identification and prioritization of the investment opportunities in every country could improve the economic growth and development by attracting the investors. Aras Free Trade - Industrial Zone (abbreviated as AFZ) is located in the Northwest Iran at the border point with neighboring Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. AFZ is located in semi-arid and semi cold North-West part of Iran. Annual rainfall is about 225 to 400 mm per year and average temperature is about 15 degree Celsius. The AFZ is very close to high mountains ranges, which have a cold climate. The facilities include railways and roads, electricity network, irrigation and water distribution network, gas distribution network, communication network, branches of all major banks and insurances, border terminals, customs warehouses, airport (Tabriz), government offices and ministerial branches, hotel, motel and restaurants. The AFZ have different business opportunities in the fields of economy, agriculture and tourism. This study has been done to identify and prioritizes business opportunities in the Aras free trade zone.
This research is a descriptive survey. Research population consists of 150 people. The mixed exploratory method has been used in data collection. In mixed exploratory methods, the researchers first gathered qualitative data. Then, based on findings from qualitative data, the quantitative data collected can have more generalizability of the findings. Data analysis was done using SPSS statistical software. To describe qualitative characteristics, we calculated percent and frequency distribution and also central and dispersion indexes using one-sample t-test. Finally, for test and prioritization of variables, Friedman nonparametric test was used. The study carried out a qualitative paradigm and the case study method. Using purposive sampling, 10 experts in the field of Entrepreneurship in the Aras Free Trade Zone were interviewed. After data collection, business opportunities in the AFT zone are classified in five categories including agriculture, tourism, trade, services, and industry. In order to analyze the data, all Recorded dialogues were converted into written texts. In the next step, using Sentence by sentence strategy, important statements are related to the subject. Finally, in order to interpret data in this study, we used constant comparative analysis method or open coding and axial. Moreover, to determine the questionnaire reliability, we also used Cronbach's alpha technique.
Results and discussion 
The results of encryption, 41 general categories (coded optional) and business opportunities are identified in AFT. The opportunity is classified in five general areas: agribusiness, tourism, commercial, industrial and service. The results showed that among these categories, commercial and agriculture were placed in the first and last priority, respectively. The difference observed between the different domains is a significant error level of less than 0.05. The results also determined the best business opportunities in each category. The best actions are including: building export terminals is the best for trade business opportunity, integrated health and medical tourism services is the best for service business opportunities, the solar heating systems (solar hot water) is the best for industrial business opportunities, he construction of hotel and tourism business opportunities is the best for tourism business opportunities, and sorting and packaging fruit is the best in agriculture business opportunities.
Development of any factor in countries requires investing in economic sectors and activities in that country. One cannot expect to increase employment, production and economic welfare without investing in infrastructure. Establishing and promoting free zones can act as a fast policy and a shortcut for achieving the goals such as attracting foreign and home investments and rapid industrialization in order to develop non-oil exports in a state greatly dependent on oil exports. Thus, the business opportunities in the field of trade and tourism will specially pay attention to the area. With respect to the special position of Aras Free Zone, relevant authorities paid more attention to identify opportunities and create new opportunities with investing in this area, to improve the economic situation and create job. Moreover, given the obtained priority in decision-making for investment this can provide facilities and infrastructures, accelerating in infrastructure and construction affairs, developing economic growth, investment and increase general revenue, create healthy and productive employment, adjusting the labor market and goods, presence at international and global markets, production and export and finally will be in line with free zone goals.


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