Opinion: Innovation: Nasa technology… and a prayer mat

RUSHDIRushdi Siddiqui

The Global Islamic Economic Summit, or GIES, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is about finding and defining innovations to address Muslim consumerism as part of an Islamic economy.
One of the interesting non-social media developments for the Muslim world is… the ubiquitous prayer mat.But, it’s not just any prayer mat. It is the “world’s first physiological prayer mat”, part art (decorative design patterns and colour), part high technology (from Nasa), part  anti-allergy (dust and germs), part knee-saver (comfortable bounce-back cushion with long life), part gift-giving. All real, and all in time for the Eid holidays.

I was recently in Dubai and caught up with Nader Sabry, chief executive officer and founder of Timez5. The interesting aspect of the interview was an actual demonstration of the prayer mat on the marble floor of the hotel. I was strongly encouraged by Mohammad Al Bastaki, vice-president for international, to stand, sit, prostrate and even lie down on a regular prayer mat, then a yoga mat, and eventually the Timez5 prayer mat.

There was no slippage of the mat on the marble floor during the full range of prayer motions, it was easy on my knees (one of my knees has had arthroscopic surgery), and there was no “smell” of their demo mat.

We then sat down and spoke about his journey to commercialise the prayer mat.

How did you come up with idea of prayer mat and what makes it so special?

My journey started five years back when I was passing by an elderly Muslim who had obvious knee and joint pains, but he was adamant to pray with full prostration, including putting his face on the ground.  I was inspired by his devotion and made it a goal to find a solution so him and others like him can seek devotion and pray in comfort.

[Some people have said prayer should be part hardship, and it is valid point, but there are many definitions of hardship.]

Tell us about your R&D.

Working with a team of scientists, psychiatrists and experts along with an ex-Nasa physiologist, Timez5’s “world’s first physiological prayer mat” was born from space-age material and expertise.  Thus, our motto: “you focus on prayer and we focus on keeping you comfortable”.

Where are these mats manufactured and distributed?

The Timez5 physiological prayer mat is a Canadian product sourced from a complex domestic and global supply chain of high performance space age based materials.  It’s distributed through a global network of distribution centres and sold through our retail network. It has been a big hit in the GCC, accounting for 25 per cent of all global sales. The annual Eid break accounted for 40 per cent of all those sales as GCC nationals flock to Dubai for entertainment and shopping, seeking unique gifts.

Where are your customers and what has been the feedback?

Our customers come from different parts of the world in Muslim countries, Mena to Asean countries, like Malaysia and Brunei, plus Muslim populations spanning from Canada, the US and crossing the Atlantic to Europe. Life changing, we have impacted the lives of many people, from those with serious physical ailments to those simply seeking to enjoy our physio-spiritual experience. It is a rare and intimate experience that gives hope, instills love and inspires. Thus, the feedback has been very positive;  62 per cent of all sales result in repurchasing up to three times on average within 60 days from initial purchase, 80 per cent of our customers make their initial purchase as a gift for a loved one and it all grows from there.

Do you have non-Muslim customers? If so, why are they purchasing?

Yes, many. They use it for their prayers [meditation], and pregnant ladies [use it] for sitting and stretching, plus some forms of pregnancy pilates and placing their babies’ heads on it.  It’s also used by groups like desk-based employees to athletes in their post-injury rehabilitation.

Are you concerned that there will be copycat competitors, and what is your advantage?

There is no supplement for quality and innovation. It is dangerous to underestimate today’s consumers; they are more educated and very aware of what they buy, especially [those products] impacting their health and wellness. When making a health product-purchasing decision, it is important to know who is behind it and the standards used to ensure it works. We adhere to the highest global standards and continuously develop our product. In short, our customers not just own a product, but belong to the Timez5 physiological community with exclusive programmes, offerings and content.

Views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy. Khaleej Times