Tapping into a Competitive Yet Rewarding Halal Business

By Sheikh Ghazali Abod, PhD
Representing 1.7 billion or about a quarter of the entire world population, the potentials of the Muslim market is extremely huge. This is even made more astounding, considering the Muslim populace is growing at two times the rate of the global population. In 2015, the market is estimated to be worth a staggering US$1.8 trillion and is forecasted to rise to US$2.6 trillion by 2020. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) remarked that while the global economy is stagnating due to decline in investment and an ageing population, the outlook of the Muslim economy is a stark contrast by being among the fastest growing markets in the world.

From a regional perspective, ASEAN SMEs are well positioned to capitalise on the opportunities of this huge and rapidly growing Muslim market. Although it may not be as lucrative as the market of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the region is home to a sizeable Muslim consumer base. Approximately 265 million or about 43% of the Southeast Asia populace practice the religion of Islam with majorities of them in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia as well as Pattani in Thailand and Mindanao in the Philippines.

It only makes business sense for the SMEs in the region to leverage the proximity of this large Muslim market appearing at their doorsteps, positioning it as a springboard in pursuing their halal ventures. In capitalising such an opportunity, the SMEs cannot afford to continue the “business-as-usual” approach, for the level of competition in the halal market is becoming increasingly sophisticated and strategically continuously changing to map the equally everchanging consumer landscape and demands. After all, the halal business industry is never reserved only for the Muslims and by the Muslims.

In as much as the market is regional and global, the competition is equally complex. This is even made more challenging when considering the increasingly developed ITinfrastructure, mobile apps penetration and online business rate of consumption. The SMEs need to appreciate the nature of business today. The then culture of elbowing competitors to get ahead, need to be reviewed with the current spirit of sustaining growth via inclusive collaboration. The market is in itself simply too huge for any particular player to command, hence the need to look beyond one’s business shore.

At the regional level, for the SMEs in the halal trade to be a force to be reckoned with, some of the key players in the various industries need to take some lead roles in developing a well-defined structured halal-based eco-system that would collectively help in competing and penetrating the global marketplace - where demand and lucrative pricing are in store for halal products and services of excellent quality. This will ultimately lead to the creation of halal industry giants – preferably with diverse areas of specialty – that are capable to compete vigorously in the global arena.