Amazon and China’s Alibaba made ecommerce huge; now, it seems every other website is selling and delivering products all over the world. But despite a serious thirst for online sales among the global Muslim community – the Muslim consumer market has been estimated to be worth one trillion USD – a true, Amazon-esque ecommerce giant from the Muslim world has yet to emerge.
To remedy this, Islamic finance expert Rushdi Siddiqui launched Zilzar.com, the first Islamic online platform to offer news, events, and deals on halal products at the global level. The platform publishes content on Islamic societies and products, as well as deals and offers that comply with the provisions of the Islamic Sharia law.
Zilzar officially launched during the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), in an announcement by Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak, who stated that the halal products market is “crying out for connectivity.”
Zilzar founder Rushdi Siddiqui, pictured left.
Not too young, not too old
At 50 years of age, Siddiqui launched the platform after years of work in Islamic banking and financing at Thomson Reuters and Dow Jones, on the strength of the size and the potential of the Islamic halal products market (the market is expected to reach around $1.6 trillion in 2018).
Some of the myriad products on offer on Zilzar.
Siddiqui realized the need for a platform of this scale after two years studying the Islamic lifestyle sector. “One of the most common asks – from what I consider to be the backbone of countries and locomotive towards knowledge based economies, youth, entrepreneurs, and SMEs – has been the desire to have a global dashboard of what’s happening in the Muslim world (and Muslims living in non-Muslim majority countries),” Siddiqui said.
The platform has different sections: news, which provides content about halal products; events, which lists activities that are related to the Islamic halal products sector; and community, where members can ask a question or start a discussion online, all of which are geared towards supporting SMEs. “We want SMEs – from micro-SMEs to export-ready SMEs – to grow beyond their actual footprint and have an expansive digital footprint by accessing new markets, opportunities, and clients. We want to address their costs for a digital strategy by offering free digital storefront with support services, and this extends to, say, halal certification bodies encountering similar challenges on fixed costs.”
One community, one platform
Zilzar will provide rich content as well as knowledge resources to users, sellers, buyers, halal product certification bodies, and online markets, according to a press release, while allowing sellers to work on it for free. The platform will include eight different areas which offer products and services including halal food and beverage, Islamic financing sources, apparel and fashion, innovation and media, travel and tourism, medical and pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, and logistics services. Sellers can follow each other’s profiles so as to facilitate partnership, making Zilzar the world’s first ecommerce social network.
Zilzar also entered into a partnership with MasterCard to offer online payment services for sellers and buyers, ensuring safety and trust.
Although it’s an independent business platform, Zilzar will also offer assistance to governments of Islamic-majority countries or member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, enabling them to cooperate for instance with halal food suppliers to serve school students. “We might work with several countries looking to support and help SMEs export their halal products, and I am proud that Zilzar will pioneer these areas," Rushdi said.