Opinion: Zilzar – Consumerism with Integrity

Rushdi believes that a change agent must tell the truth to a benevolent dictator, religious hardliner, and compassionately connect with youth and have nots.
Co-Founder and CEO, Zilzar.com

For an outsider in the technology/ e-commerce space, the solution oftentimes is more of a mirage than an oasis.

As an insider, the mirage becomes an opportunity if the mind is open/ clear, the team consists of “can-do” people, and there is ability to pivot to avoid pouring money down the rabbit hole.

zilzar_logoAs Zilzar, a combination of two words: “zil” from zillion and “zar” from bazaar, approaches its first anniversary, this is an appropriate time to share our approach to the Muslim Lifestyle Marketplace.

We set out to solve a two-part problem, authentic ethical consumerism and emotional connection to content, that had a number of moving parts: (1) Zilzar’s target market and differentiating from the crowd; (2) finding the right team with drive and chemistry; (3) timing for approaching investors; (4)scaling, and (5) continuity to invent, innovate and empower.

In the course of the next few months, I will share some of these high-level insights.


The raw numbers about the Muslim size/demographics are both true and misleading. Yes, nearly two billion Muslims in 57 Muslim countries and nearly 300 million in the non-Muslim world, but more than 1.2 billion live on less than a dollar a day and are not on the grid.

You have to enfranchise them before monetising from them.

Our target market is the 20% of 500 million Muslims under 30 and those with aligned values. They are change agents and middle class in the wait, who are socially media savvy and connected to the grid via mobile phones. They will seek out authentic products from the Muslim Lifestyle Marketplace. Their change agent status was witnessed during the Arab Spring.

Muslim Lifestyle space products come from a number of silos, three requiring halal certification, food/ beverage, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals; and the remainder includes fashion, travel, media/creation, logistics, etc.

Lesson: investors want companies to target a reasonable percentage of a large, grid connected and growing marketplace with few competitors rather than a smaller amount of an established crowded market. The reciprocity from customer journey is loyalty, but there should not be a cost of being a Muslim.

Youth lead the emerging Muslim consumerism as they identify with faith-based spiritual values and, concurrently, want the “secular” benefits. More importantly, Muslims do not operate in a vacuum.

Hence, external events and disproportionate reaction by selected media and countries have caused them to look within and attempt to control their own destiny, including their spending.

The psyche of the youth generation is to have Muslim money circulate in the Muslim community, similar to the thinking of Chinese. They want to help the micro-enterprises become small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and SMEs become multinational corporations with their “ethical purchasing” power.

Yes, it will take time, but the ethical consumerism spark has started in the e-commerce world.

Lesson: Muslim consumerism results in revenue and return on investment via empowerment, enfranchisement and bringing dignity to SMEs. Investor focus is on momentum that results in faster customer adoption. In vetting companies and policing products, Zilzar is about buyer safety.

Put differently, consumers are willing to pay for “integrity premium” in today’s marketplace of breaking news about fake and health-challenged products.

We have purposely taken a go-slow approach for on-boarding merchants, as we cannot outsource or fast track integrity. We are now approaching the same number of credible and active halal suppliers on Alibaba, and have more than Amazon, Ebay and Rakuten.

It’s about quality and gross merchandise value, not a race for onboarding vendors with non-traffic digital storefronts.

Furthermore, our expanding linkage to 137-plus halal certification bodies, for the food/beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, is showcasing their important role for vendors, public, media, and non-Muslim countries.

Thus, Zilzar is focusing less on product mirages and more on proof of concept of marketing: scaling ethical e-commerce.

*Rushdi Siddiqui is the co-founder & CEO of Zilzar, a B2B and B2C global information, content, community, and transaction platform for the Muslim Lifestyle Marketplace.

#MuslimLifestyle #Halal #MuslimConsumerism #Startup #OIC #E-Commerce