"Heidelberg is a global city. You never see the same face twice." Saeid Fasihi
Iranian-born Saeid Fasihi looks back on almost 30 years in the Rhine-Neckar region while sipping a cup of sweet Persian tea. The 58-year-old arrived as a political asylum seeker and is now the proud recipient of the Innovationspreis (innovation award) of Rhineland-Palatinate and the “Grand Prize” for German SMEs.
The founder and managing director of the Ludwigshafen-based software company Fasihi GmbH was born and raised in the Iranian capital Tehran, where he worked as a production engineer in a Daimler-Benz lorry assembly plant. However, Saeid Fasihi had to leave his homeland in 1986 because of his political opposition to the Mullah regime. He consequently came to Heidelberg seeking political asylum, and started a new life in a small shared apartment.
During the three-year wait for his asylum application to be recognised, he learnt German and, despite not having a permit, attended IT courses at Heidelberg University’s computer centre as an unofficial guest student. He earned extra cash by working as a portrait painter in the romantic pedestrian zone of Heidelberg, where he met his wife. But that is not the only reason Fasihi feels a special connection with Heidelberg: "Heidelberg is a global city. You never see the same face twice." After being granted refugee status, he studied information systems at the University of Mannheim and worked as a freelance programmer for the chemical group BASF SE.
Ludwigshafen offers the perfect business location for his present company with around 50 employees, set up in 1990 as a one-man operation. Rents are cheap, transport links are excellent - he can get to the premises of his oldest and biggest customer, BASF SE, in just a few minutes. The infrastructure, particularly the digital networking, also caters to every wish. Even after almost 30 years, Saeid Fasihi is still fascinated by the smooth operation of the regional transport network, and by the fact that the buses are not constantly overcrowded and the local public transport is on time. “You can arrange a meeting for a certain time and rely on the fact that you will be there at the agreed time. In Iran, everything was just total chaos - you never knew when or even whether you would get to where you were going”, says Fasihi.
Fasihi lives with his wife and children in idyllic Weisenheim am Sand, and runs his own farm part-time. He has around 1000 fruit trees - apple, cherry, and plums - and makes his own juice and liquor from the fruit. The view over the vines along the German Wine Road brings back memories of his homeland, as his father grew fruit and wine in Iran. The region offers him many ways to enjoy leisure time away from the pressures of his demanding job: fantastic hiking opportunities in the Palatinate Forest, a versatile catering industry, and numerous city and wine festivals.
However, Saeid Fasihi is still getting used to the typical regional cuisine, which includes dishes such as liver dumplings and sauerkraut. When it comes to wine, he cannot hide his Persian roots - it has to be sweet. Now and again, he also has a hard time with the local Palatinate dialect. “My neighbours do their best to speak standard German and at times repeat things for me - and yet, sometimes I still don’t get it”, he says, laughing. Rhine-Neckar has become the IT entrepreneur’s adoptive home and he would not trade it for anywhere else: “I have everything I need here. This is where I’ll stay.”