The Role of Export Clusters in Export Performance of SMEs: The Case of Iranian Energy Industry

Sarah Sedigheh Ebadzadeh Semnani, Hossein Dadfar, Staffan Brege


Purpose: This study was carried out with the aim of exploring the effects of export clusters formation on export performance of SMEs in Iranian energy industry. Methodology/Approach: The study was undertaken through having three case studies, each on a different export cluster currently active within Iranian energy industry. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews with both managers and members of each export cluster as well as study of their archival documents.  Findings: The results confirmed that all three export clusters managed to successfully identify their members’ needs and undertook certain measures within their own authority and control, to mitigate these risks. Moreover, the secondary data showed positive growth rate of export level after the establishment of these export clusters. Interestingly, the strong suits of all three export clusters were mainly related to communication and relationship aspects. These three factors were: ability to create Informal Network within members, Public Relations and Training/Consultation.  Research Limitation/implication: This study was limited to the export clusters in Iranian energy industry, and on a cross-sectional time horizon basis. It therefore cannot be generalized to all industries and we might witness certain changes in findings if the study is undertaken at different point in time. However, the study shed light on certain important aspects such as nature of relationships within the members of each cluster, the role of trust management and social power as well as the need to place more focus on SMEs in export clusters. Originality/Value of paper: Even though there are recently many studies on the concept of export clusters and their positive impacts on the growth in export of various countries throughout the world; but so far, there had been no similar study undertaken with a focus on Iran and not enough empirical evidence had previously been provided on export clusters performance in a developing country.


export cluster performance; internal relationships; internationalization of SMEs; trust management

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