Maneli Rezvani is the founder and CEO of Cologne based consumer tech company iVisions GmbH. We spoke to her about her philosophy on leadership and what sets the company apart as a key player in the digital revolution.
Gender diversity in the workplace is a well-documented issue, but perhaps more so than ever in the tech industry. Despite making up the majority of the global workforce, women only account for 19% of the global technology market – and the figures are even lower for those in leadership. Over 70% of tech director roles are filled by men, and data shows that male-led tech start-ups receive a huge seven times more funding than those founded by women.
Based in Cologne, Germany, iVisions GmbH is already a remarkable business at the frontline of technological innovation. What makes it even more remarkable is the fact that it led by women. CEO Maneli Rezvani and COO Maryam Nasseri both have Iranian roots and have battled the odds and made a name for themselves as leaders in their field.
Maneli has recently been named “CEO of the Year – Electronics Wholesale and Distribution Industry” in the 2022 Business Worldwide CEO Awards.
The company is a leading distributor of high end, branded consumer electronics products and it’s gone from strength to strength in the past few years – even in the midst of a global epidemic
The Evolution of Communication
When Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for the first ever telephone back in 1876, he revolutionised communication. Since then, mobile technology has come on leaps and bounds, moving from being able to talk through a telephone line to what many consider to be an essential part of daily life. Our phones simplify tasks, provide convenience and allow us to manage everything from our finances to important health data. We can control smart devices in our homes, keep track of our weight and exercise and stay on top of the news. The evolution of mobile phones has gone at incredibly fast pace, and we’ve become so reliant on them that we feel lost without them.
From Information Overload to Lifeline
Whether society has become too reliant on technology has been the subject of passionate debate for years. Many of us had been complaining about information overload and choosing to limit our screen time – the revival of the Nokia 3310 was an example of how millennials in particular were looking to go back to a simpler time. But when COVID-19 hit, society started to recognise the value of modern connectivity once again.
Mobile technology became a literal lifeline for millions of people, many of whom had suddenly become completely isolated by the pandemic. Shops closed their doors, meetings stopped happening, friends and families were separated – not just in daily life, but for key events like Christmas and other religious holidays, birthdays and weddings. Technology became the glue that held society together through these unprecedented times of loneliness, anxiety and uncertainty. From WhatsApp to Teams and Zoom, social media to online shopping and banking, we were able to stay connected through little gadgets we carry around in our hands.
Maneli Rezvani is passionate about technology and the way it empowers people. She began her career in the mobile industry at the age of 23, right at the beginning of the noughties. At that point, the tech industry was already booming, and she recognised straight away that this was the industry in which she wanted to build a long-term career.
Conversely, she was also acutely aware of the lack of diversity in the sector. As a woman it was already a struggle to be taken seriously by peers, but as a migrant to Germany it she saw an even bigger challenge – and overcame it.
Maneli decided to build her own company that not only championed the power of technology but was known for its commitment to diversity and doing things differently. Maneli works closely with the company’s COO, Maryam Nasseri, another visionary female leader who brings over 35 years of experience in the media and tech industries.
iVisions GmbH is a fully integrated company which Maneli often refers to as “a completely ego-free zone”. It’s a high impact organisation where everyone’s skills count and all team members have their voices heard – no matter what position they hold in the company. Maneli is focused on using technology to bring about positive change to iVision’s many stakeholders, while turning challenges into opportunities. The pandemic was a perfect example of this.
She explained: “The whole COVID-19 era was full of uncertainty, but we chose to be intentionally exposed during this period. We used our vast pool of talent to full advantage, creating new partnerships and showing our existing partners we were still very much open and ready to do business. Our partners felt they could still count on us, which was important – we were able to represent constancy and calm even through this time of extreme uncertainty.”
A Key Player in the Local Community
Corporate Social Responsibility is also an important part of iVision’s culture, and the company supports many charitable organisations throughout Cologne and beyond. Maneli and her team are well known in the area and dedicated to equal opportunities for all. “When people don’t come from what’s seen as the ‘right’ background, we believe in giving them a chance and empowering them to achieve their full potential” she said.
iVisions is committed to the green agenda, too. The company partners with environmentally friendly logistics companies to guarantee more ethical, sustainable transportation of products and lower its carbon footprint.
Opportunities, Not Threats
“We believe in finding the good in all situations” Maneli continued, “Instead of seeing competition as a threat, we view it as an opportunity to become more integrated, think bigger and expand our networks. We like to partner with like-minded organisations and those we can learn from, so we can stay at the forefront of market trends and provide our customers with the best possible products and services. We also know that everyone makes mistakes and the most important thing is to learn from them, because that’s how we grow.”
Predictions For the Future
When asked how she expects the technology sector to grow over the coming years, Maneli replied “I expect devices to become much more advanced than they are today, and they will be able to integrate with our daily lives to a far higher level. Digital health will play an increasingly important role and we will become much more connected to ourselves through our digital devices. I also think sustainability will be a big factor. Millennials and Generation Z customers are really passionate about green issues, so I predict more of a shift towards refurbished devices, as well as concepts around “pay per use” and rental and leasing models.”
How has iVisions GmbH evolved over the years?
“We’ve turned into an organisation that’s much more than employer, but one that puts its team at the centre. We know that without our great team we wouldn’t be where we are today, so we’re completely employee led. The senior management teamwork at eye level with our team and we all have a say on strategy and our overall aims and dreams.”
Steady, Low-Risk Growth
Within the past year the company has seen massive growth, but risk is something Maneli takes very seriously. “We’re all about knowing the market and taking calculated risks; always working under the conditions of considered, careful risk management. Our team includes high priority risk analysts who are engaged in monitoring the market and its data, which has enabled us to see a growth percentage of around 25% – 30% in the past four years.”
The power of technology is something that clearly matters a great deal to Maneli:
“We really believe in this sector, and feel very confident that it will continue to grow and won’t suffer losses – no matter what the world throws at us. In the time of wars and economic crises, customers might not want to spend high amounts on luxury products, but technology remains one of the must-haves in their lives, helping them stay connected and giving them a feeling of security through their modern devices. When all else fails, technology has the power to bring us closer together and take care of ourselves – and the possibilities are endless.”
To find out more about iVisions, visit the company website here