Opinion: Islamic lifestyle – The story has just begun

Shailesh Dash / 19 May 2015 / Khaleej Times

Shariah products and services are an integral part of global economy and are poised to grow with the rise in population.

AdTech AdThe rapid growth in Islamic population has had a radical impact on the global economy. According to PwC, the global Islamic population has expanded more than 50 per cent over the last two decades. New Islamic products and services (referred to as those compliant with Shariah principles) have become an integral part of the global economic growth engine. Islamic finance is one of the major Islamic services we are conversant with today. 

According to PwC, global Islamic financial assets are expected to grow to $2.6 trillion in 2017 from $1.2 trillion in 2012. The growth in these Shariah-compliant financial products, which include Islamic banking products, Islamic funds, sukuk, takaful, among others, has been supported by the expanding Muslim population and a wider acceptance of these products globally. Apart from financial services, Islamic products have forayed into other sectors of the global economy. The Islamic products market includes Islamic travel and tourism, Islamic food, Islamic cosmetics and personal care, Islamic pharmaceuticals, and Islamic media and recreation.

According to a Thomson Reuters report titled “State of the Global Islamic Economy”, the global expenditure on food and lifestyle sectors by the Islamic population is expected to touch $2.5 trillion in 2018 from $1.7 trillion in 2012.

Islamic tourism, food, and hospitality
Islamic tourism is a large and growing market. According to the Thomson Reuters report, the global Islamic spending on outbound tourism stood at $140 billion in 2013 [excluding Hajj and Umrah], representing a 12 per cent of the world’s tourism market. The overall size of the Islamic tourism market is estimated to be quite large, considering that more than one million people undertake the Hajj pilgrimage each year to Makkah. The growth in Islamic tourism has been well supported by the rapid rise in Muslim population and the propensity of Muslims toward travelling, not only for religious purpose, but also for visiting family and friends.

In addition to the religious principles of Islam, which encourage travel, Islamic tourism supports other Islamic services. For instance, the travel segment provides flights where no alcohol and pork are served, prayer timings are announced, and religious programmes are broadcast as part of the entertainment offered on board.

Moreover, a number of food producers and retailers across the world have added Islamic offerings to their portfolio. In the food industry, 150 of Nestle’s 468 factories worldwide are halal certified, and currently manufacture more than 300 halal food and beverage products in over 50 countries. Carrefour and Tesco have also started offering halal food products in several markets. Marrybrown, a halal quick service restaurant (QSR) based in Malaysia, is expanding globally and currently has 380 outlets.

In the hospitality segment, hotels in many destinations across the globe provide separate swimming pools, dining, and spa facilities for men and women. For instance, the Ritz-Carlton offers Quran, prayer carpets, halal food, and bidets at select locations as part of its strategy to cater to the global multi-cultural travellers. These supporting factors have appealed to the religious sentiment of the Muslim population, thus aiding and encouraging Islamic tourism.

Apart from Arab nations, countries such as Australia, India, Malaysia, and Turkey are also making efforts to attract Muslim tourists by offering facilities in accordance with Islamic religious beliefs. Malaysia, a favourite Muslim tourist destination, has taken numerous measures such as developing the Halal Master Plan (2008–20), hosting the first OIC Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition, and establishing the Islamic Tourism centre (ITC), coupled with the nation’s multi-cultural setting, cuisine, and heritage, in an attempt to establish itself as a popular Muslim hub.

Personal care and pharmaceuticals
The Islamic lifestyle segment also includes halal cosmetics and personal care products that are free from alcohol and its derivatives. For example, Sunsilk, a hair care product brand owned by Unilever Plc, has a special line of shampoos for women who wear Islamic head cover.

Similarly, some drug manufacturers across the world manufacture medicines that are compliant with Islamic principles and based on a set of halal pharmaceutical standards. These pharmaceutical products do not contain parts of animals that are not permitted for slaughter according to the Shariah law.

These products are not prepared, processed, or manufactured using equipment contaminated with Najs, and do not contain any human parts or its derivatives.

Media and recreation
The Islamic lifestyle segment also includes media and recreation services. These service providers propagate Islamic values and traditions through films, radio, digital and mobile applications, such as Quran Touch App, and toys and games. There are also unique distribution brands and concepts to engage Muslim audiences. Awakening Records (UK), Emel (UK), Teshkeel Media Group (Kuwait), Ala (Turkey), and Aquila Style (Singapore) are some popular Islamic media and recreation companies.

Islamic products and services have obviously had a tremendous impact on the global economy. Going forward, Islamic products and services are likely to become even more critical for growth in various sectors of the global economy. With the Muslim population expected to swell more than 35 per cent until 2030 (forming 25 per cent of the global population), the demand for Islamic products and services is set to rise further.

Globalisation and reduction in socio-cultural barriers would also drive growth in Islamic products and services. Realising the potential, countries across the world are increasing their focus on developing products and services that appeal to the sentiment of the Muslim population. Therefore, Islamic lifestyle may well be the new fuel propelling the rapid economic growth during the rest of the 21st century and beyond.

The writer is the founder and CEO of Al Masah Capital Management Limited. Views expressed by him are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.