Britain’s Muslim entrepreneurs cash in on the power of the pound
LONDON // Young mum Shahin Bharwani beamed with delight as she watched the young crowds queue up to sample her “Nojitos” at London’s first Halal Food Festival held in the summer.
She selected the event as the launchpad for her non-alcohol halal-friendly drinks because it was located in her core market, East London, and allowed potential customers to physically taste and touch the product. “Nothing makes me happier than watching someone drink the Nojito and tell me how good it tastes,” she says.
By all estimates, the British Muslim and former deputy head teacher, Ms Bharwani, 37, is not your typical entrepreneur. She says she only came up with the idea six months ago when sitting in a restaurant and realising, once again, that there was nothing “nice or special” for Muslims to drink apart from a sugary soft drink or just plain fruit juice. This sparked the launch of The Mocktail Company in June last year, which has since sold more than 30,000 units of the mojito-inspired Nojito across the UK.
In April, Ms Bharwani will take part in the Muslim Lifestyle Show, which will showcase businesses aimed at this burgeoning consumer market. Worldwide, the halal food and beverage sector is forecast to be worth more than £2 trillion (Dh9.21tn) by the end of this decade, according to Reuters’ latest State of the Global Islamic Economy report, and is growing at nearly double the rate of the global economy generally.
More than 100 businesses from 14 countries will set up their stalls at London’s Olympia hall for the lifestyle show on April 15 and 16. Exhibitors will include producers and suppliers of halal food brands, toiletries and cosmetics; modest fashion; travel; Islamic finance; entertainment; and greeting cards and toys. Twenty thousand visitors are expected to pay the £10 entrance fee.
“The tide is definitely turning for the capital’s Islamic economy,” says Abdulhamid Evans, the founder of the London-based halal research firm Imarat Consultants. “In 2017 we will see more home-grown Muslim brands and many of them will also appeal to non-Muslims because of their ethical and providence values.”
Mr Evans also predicts that the UK government is likely to turn its attention to the Islamic economy and launch more initiatives to support Muslim entrepreneurship and foreign inward investment.
In 2010, the global Muslim population was 1.6 billion people. By 2050 it is expected to reach 2.8 billion, a quarter of the world’s population. One-third of Muslims are under 15; two-thirds are under 30. The size of the Muslim middle class is forecast to triple by 2030. The economies and populations of countries with Muslim majorities are growing fast and Muslim minorities in Britain, Europe and North America are young, affluent and thriving.
In the past few years there has been an explosion in small businesses set up to cater for the growing demands of the Muslim consumer market. Many of these entrepreneurs are young, smart, Muslim and hungry. Each passing month involves the launch of new and ingenious businesses, each seeking to serve the increasingly sophisticated needs of a growing international class of Muslim – those who are born in the United Kingdom and are balancing their fast-paced western lifestyles with a desire to respect their religious values.
Last June, three young Muslim professionals packed in their day jobs to launch Halalnivore, London’s first gourmet halal meat home delivery service. The company has since signed up more than 200 monthly customers. “Good quality halal me
at can be hard to find in London,” says Walli Datoo, 35, the co-founder and chief executive of Halalnivore.
The entrepreneur says he hopes to tap into the capital’s growing demand for premium halal food. The overall value of the UK’s halal food market is £700 million, according to the Muslim Council of Britain. However, it is not just Muslims who are demanding high-quality meat.
“Our typical customer is anyone who likes top-notch food, not just Muslims,” says Mr Datoo. “We view ourselves as a lifestyle brand. We’re providing a premium service that didn’t exist before … mainly for 25 to 40-year-olds who are working all day and don’t have time to go out and source good meat.”
Halalnivore delivers internationally sourced meat cuts – from lamb cutlets to fillet steaks – in refrigerated boxes door-to door across the UK. The concept is simple: any order placed before 12pm on a Tuesday will be delivered on Thursday the same week. “This is the best quality halal meat on the market,” says Mr Datoo. “We use the same suppliers as London’s five-star restaurants.”
Also cashing in on the UK’s growing premium halal food market is Haloodies, the country’s first provider of upmarket value-added meat products supplied into Britain’s mainstream supermarkets. Imran Kauser, the co-founder of Haloodies and a doctor by training, says a confluence of Muslim trends including growing affluence, aspirational outlooks and a general interest in provenance, inspired him to launch food products aimed at millennial Muslims. “We are not about minarets and crescents,” he says. “We provide high-quality meat and universal branding.”
According to experts, premium food is set to be one of the fastest growing Islamic economy sectors in the UK. “Halal food is set to take off in a big way,” says Mr Evans. “Fresh accessible food brands, such as Haloodies, are examples of how modern branding can give the products broad appeal to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
Another growing Islamic economy sector is the modest fashion industry. London is a teeming hotbed for young designers who are creating demure designs for an increasingly fashion-savvy and well-off generation of millennial Muslims. Romanna Bint-Abubaker, the chief executive of the Chelsea-based modest fashion marketplace Haute Elan, recently founded the city’s first London Modest Fashion Week, which is set to take place on February 18 and 19.
“London Modest Fashion Week aims to be an annual fixture and comes at an opportune time. It is a new and exciting addition to London’s fashion calendar,” says Ms Bint-Abubaker. “It will act as an industry catalyst for UK’s fledgling modest fashion industry, bringing into the mainstream highlights of modest fashion – culture and elegance. London has increasingly been seen as the modest fashion capital of the world and so it’s no surprise that we chose to host this event on our home ground.”
As Britain’s young Muslim population grows and becomes increasingly affluent, all the signs point to the unassailable power of the Islamic pound.
“Just because we’re Muslim, it doesn’t mean we’re boring,” says Ms Bharwani. “It doesn’t mean we don’t like nice things.”
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Updated: January 29, 2017 04:00 AM