Malaysia's Aims to be the Alibaba of the Muslim World

Malaysia is eyeing a leadership position in the US$2.5-trillion Muslim consumer market with the launch of, the world’s first global Muslim Lifestyle Marketplace platform.

At the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIFE) in Dubai on 29 October, Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak officiated the launch of Zilzar in collaboration with MasterCard.

A report published by Bernama and posted in the Prime Minister’s website quoted Najib as saying that he hopes “could be as successful as Alibaba in the Chinese market” and lead global halal trading.

“The environment and conditions are perfect for this new innovative partnership for economic growth,” he was quoted as saying in the report. “What Alibaba is to the Chinese market, can be for the Muslim lifestyle sector, creating new businesses and jobs and bringing Islamic finance to new markets.”

Halal sellers

Zilzar describes its technology as a business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) global information, content, community and transaction platform targeting millions of globally dispersed halal Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that want to grow by accessing new markets and customers. Its promise: credible and halal-certified sellers.

On Zilzar, a seller can create a digital storefront and apply for certifications. A buyer, on the other hand, can visit the storefronts and seller profiles, review their certifications and send buying requests or quotations for the products and services on display.

The platform has a mobile app for both buyers and sellers with real-time messaging functions. Everyone can “follow” buyers and sellers on the platform and receive push notifications for relevant announcements from the community. 

Zilzar promises to support the entire halal ecosystem offering not only information and content but engaging them across sectors.

Leading the company are experts from Islamic finance, halal industry, technology and payments, including MasterCard, which is its strategic payments partner.

Its chairman, Dato Vaseehar Hassan Abdul Razak, is adviser and board member of Asian Finance Bank Berhad, independent director RHB Banking Group, and former board member of the RHB Islamic Bank.

Its CEO, Rushdi Siddiqui, is a member of the Board of Advisors of Falah Capital in the US, global head for Islamic Finance/OIC countries for Thomson Reuters, global director of Dow Jones Islamic Market index. 

Its chief technology officer, Fahad Moti Khan, is a career entrepreneur with 16 years of experience in online business models, Internet technologies and social media. He founded &, was advisory director at Technology 9 Labs, and at age 18 was the CTO of Tehelka. com, India’s popular independent news portal.

Siddiqui said in a news release that the world is looking for the next BRICS story, growth market with growth demographics, and Zilzar is looking to be the e-vehicle for the halal super-highway.

“Zilzar will meet the needs of all parties by providing a more centralized and accessible online hub, a one-stop shop where products can be marketed globally, safely and ethically,” he said.

The collaboration will see MasterCard offering its expertise in payment technology to support’s infrastructure and provide a safe, secure and scalable payments.  

“MasterCard is delighted to be able to partner with Zilzar to deliver seamless payment services for this impressive best-of-breed platform,” said Safdar Khan, group country manager, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei; group head, Islamic Payments, Southeast Asia, MasterCard.

He said the payments infrastructure set up for is designed to enable merchants and consumers to perform secured transactions with ease and convenience.

Muslim lifestyle market

Zilzar said in a video presentation that the Muslim lifestyle industry is a consumer driven marketplace of more than two billion people driven by core Islamic injunctions, prayer practices and dietary requirements. 

The global Islamic economy is supported by eight sectors – halal food/beverage (US$1.08 trillion), Islamic finance (US$1.5 trillion), clothing/fashion (US$224 billion), media/recreation (US$151 billion), Muslim travel/tourism (US$140 billion), pharmaceutical (US$70 billion), cosmetics (US$23 billion), and logistics (US$15 billion).

“It is a growing industry with promising growth demographics, but the growth is currently dominated by a few big players. Worldwide, suppliers and exporters, especially SMEs, are constantly looking to move to bigger and newer markets for their halal products and services, whereas buyers from all over the world are seeking reliable halal suppliers with recognized certifications,” it said.

At the 10th WIEF in Dubai, co-organized by WIEF Foundation and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, experts called on the Muslim world to focus on efforts to rediscover Islamic principles and promote regional cooperation.

Datuk Ranjit Ajit Singh, Executive Chairman of Securities Commission, Malaysia, said global economies are still in a transitional stage and called for the development of resilient economic models.

“In many ways the growth of Islamic finance is timely. In fact, Islamic economy is linked to not only greater participation in equitable distribution of growth opportunities but also sustainable and inclusive growth,” he said.

An independent report published by Imarat Consultants on the Halal Research Council (HRC) website noted that cultural diversity has lead to strict halal standards, but Southeast Asia is driving the halal market forward by stimulating the most advanced standards and certification agencies.

Malaysia, for example, has Centers of Halal Excellence and hosts the World Halal Forum, while Thailand has Halal Science Centre and Halal Science Symposium.  Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the region, has the MUI Halal authority.

The report emphasized that halal is not just about meat. It said the market is waiting for complete product ranges, pre-cooked meals, toiletries and personal care items, pharmaceuticals and health supplements.

“The new halal industry sectors are protecting the integrity of the entire halal value chain and becoming increasingly important,” it said.

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