Opinion: DinarStandard supports Dubai as Islamic Economy Capital

RUSHDIBy Rushdi Siddiqui

We are seeking to establish the most authoritative investment/marketing databases, says Rafi-uddin Shikoh
In an exclusive interview with Rafi-uddin Shikoh, founder and CEO of DinarStandard, we meet the man who took the ‘dinar’ word, which represented a high standard of excellence and integrity by which value was measured, and established a successful research and advisory firm.Tell us about DS and major milestones since its launch.

DinarStandard (DS) is a growth strategy research and advisory firm empowering organisations for profitable and responsible growth and global impact. We specialise in the halal/tayyab food, Islamic/ethical finance, halal travel, Islamic NGOs and OIC member country sectors.

Launched in December 2004 as an online business magazine, DinarStandard developed the DS100 ranking of top 100 companies of the Muslim world (OIC member countries). This ground-breaking list received immediate and global media attention with coverage from The Economist, Forbes, countries like Turkey, Malaysia and regions like the GCC.

In January 2005, we produced our first analysis on the opportunity we termed the ‘Muslim lifestyle market.’ Since then we have been covering this trend and building our market intelligence on it.

For example, in 2008, we were engaged by Fajr Capital — a DIFC-based pioneering investment firm, with a focus on high-growth OIC markets, to setup its business case for an investment theme around the OIC member country economies. This important mandate was the spark for our evolution as a research and advisory firm.

DS was closely involved with the Global Islamic Economy Summit and produced the ‘State of the Global Islamic Economy Report’ with Thomson Reuters, what were the key findings?

For the very first time anywhere globally, this report collectively sized the potential of the Islamic economy sectors and the convergence of their global opportunities for others to seize. The report represents the global Islamic economy as core sectors and their ecosystems, which are structurally affected by Islamic values-driven consumer lifestyle and business practices. The specific sectors covered include Islamic finance, halal food and lifestyle sectors of pharmaceuticals, personal care, tourism, clothing, and media/recreation.

In aggregate, the global expenditure of Muslim consumers on food and lifestyle sectors is being estimated by this report to be $1.62 trillion in 2012 and expected to reach $2.47 trillion by 2018. These figures form the potential core markets for halal food and lifestyle sectors.

The report also estimates the potential universe of Islamic finance assets in its core markets (assuming optimal scenario) to be estimated at $4.1 trillion. The report also covers key drivers, challenges and specific opportunity areas, key players within the value-chain of each sector, select industry interviews, and emerging centres of the Islamic economy.

Why do you think Islamic finance has not taken interest in the $2.6 trillion halal industry?

The common answer is the industry is in an evolution of maturing and has not yet paid attention to this new area of opportunity. Thus, it’s a mixture of risk-averseness (i.e don’t want to try new areas, ones that are untested), habit (i.e looking at same business segments because that is what we have always done), or just not aware of it yet. We are encouraged to see interest developing with halal market driven investments.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s vision for Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy, how can DS help Dubai?

In his keynote address at the Global Islamic Economy Summit, Dr Mohamed Ali Al Madani, president of the IDB Group, understanding Dubai’s global brand, made a passionate appeal to His Highness Shaikh Mohammed on the leadership role that Dubai can and should play in the Islamic economy.

DinarStandard, with recognised and established credentials in research and thought leadership on the Islamic economy, was honoured to contribute to Dubai, which hosted Global Islamic Economy Summit. We see supporting hubs like Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy through clear differentiated strategy and programmes, including halal industry body establishment, SME access to capital and access to new markets, establishing a market and consumer intelligence hub, e-commerce platform as part of smart government, etc.

Where are the growth plans for DS 2020?

DinarStandard is developing a global entrepreneurial venture with associate representation across USA, France, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, and the UAE. We are driving towards a vision of a global brand with ‘Islamic’ values empowering Islamic economies and organisations for profitable and responsible impact investing.

Our target includes corporations, investors/ IFs, SMEs, NGOs and related government bodies. Insha Allah, we are working towards scaling our Islamic economy market intelligence across all regions and related sectors globally. We are striving to build a reputation as a tier-1 quality research and advisory firm. In the next five years we are also looking to begin presence in impact investment, linking Muslim lifestyle to organic and ethical lifestyle space globally. Finally, in our key target sectors and markets of focus, we are seeking to establish the most authoritative investment/marketing databases, training platforms and SME business productivity tools.

The writer is a consultant to Thomson Reuters for Islamic finance and halal industry. Views expressed by him are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.