Where there are customers there will always almost certainly appear a shop. Given that, it is no surprise really that a new wave of eCommerce firms is positioning themselves to capture the spend of the growing numbers of middle class Muslims — a group who is currently spending as much as $100 billion online.
The unique opening is offering goods that are halal — or religiously permissible under Islamic guidelines — not always an easy task for the world's 1.6 billion Muslims.
This is where startups like Malaysia-based Zilzar come into the picture, hoping to plug that halal-compliant goods niche that other eCommerce sites are ignoring.
“It is our hope and belief that Zilzar and our colleagues will do for the halal industry market what Alibaba did for China,” Rushdi Siddiqui, Zilzar’s co-founder and chief executive officer said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Zilzar is not alone. Also founded in Malaysia is Aladdin Street and as well as Singapore's Souk.
However, all of these firms face a similar challenge: getting their products hala certified for sale, no easy feat since there are 114 different certification bodies worldwide — none of which offer the same definition of halal.
“It is already challenging to unify halal standards with various distribution and methods already existing,” said Emil Fazira Kamari, Singapore-based senior analyst at Euromonitor International. “Adding more channels and sources will further complicate the supply chain.”
Various answers to that challenge have been attempted, including marketplaces working in coordination with halal certification agencies.
And though there is no clear winner yet, the rewards to the merchants that can capture that halal-based spend could be quite lucrative.