Stakeholders in the Islamic economy need to pay attention to the youth and start-ups, said industry specialists at the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai on Wednesday.
Dustin Craun, founder of Salaam Bank moderated the panel discussion, where Yusuff Ali M. A., founder of Lulu Group International; Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, founder of Aladdin Group of Companies; and Amin Osmancevic, CEO of MyBazzar Global, explored the obstacles facing start-ups in the Islamic economy and discussed ways to help them overcome them.
“It is now more important than ever to build a startup ecosystem,” Craun said. “If we talk about building billion-dollar companies at the moment, we’re putting the cart before the horse.”
Craun classified Muslim forays into the tech industry into four categories: the Muslims working within large international tech companies; tech start-ups targeting Muslim consumers but offering regular services, such as Careem, souq.ae, etc.; tech start-ups that cater to Muslims and serve particularly Islamic needs, such as locating halal restaurants, the qibla, etc.; and social enterprise projects that use aspects of Islamic branding but operate in non-Muslim countries.
“Muslims represent the largest growth community in the world, however, if you take the Muslims in the US and Europe out of the equation, there are only few Muslim unicorns left. Investors from the region keep looking to Silicon Valley and Europe for opportunities instead of in the region,” Craun said, adding that stakeholders in the Islamic economy need to pay attention to the youth and to start-ups.
Part of the problem with Islamic banking, for example, is that it’s focusing on older Muslims when the largest population segment is the young.
Meanwhile, traditional banks are launching products that cater to the youth such as apps and digital products.
Meanwhile, Yusuff Ali said: “We should show to the world that Islam is a religion of love, tolerance, and respect, and then the world will respect us back. You should be honest and trustworthy, says the Hadith. This is the first thing an entrepreneur should do.
He added: “We are introducing and focusing on halal products and supporting the companies who produce them – it is our responsibility,” he said, cautioning that it would take some time for people to warm up to Islamic products.”
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor immediately grabbed the audience’s attention when he disclosed he was the ninth Muslim to go to space – on top of being a surgeon, a restaurant owner, and a model. “Everyone should go to space to change their perspective on the world,” says the founder of Aladdin Group, the first online halal product platform.
“We need to set internationally uniform standards for halal products. Halal is about life as a whole, it is about cleanliness and hygiene – not just slaughtering. This is what we’re trying to educate non-Muslims about,” Shukor explained.
Amin Osmancevic began by challenging the overemphasis on Muslim-only products. “Islam is only one aspect of a large, multifaceted market. By focusing only on halal markets, we would put ourselves in a box. Let’s produce products that serve all people,” Osmancevic said.
Muslims have the untapped potential of having 1.7 billion consumers. There’s huge market potential in e-commerce, where only 1 per cent of commerce in Muslim countries is done online for the time being.
“Where are the Muslim market unicorns?” Osmancevic asked in conclusion; “You can’t find them, you have to breed them; you have to create them.”