2nd Islamic Economy Awards nominations now open

Author: Blake Goud – Islamic Finance Gateway Community Leader

The Islamic economy is too often characterized around its biggest silos: the multibillion dollar banks recycling petrodollars across the world and the expansion of global and regional conglomerates into the halal food market as their indigenous market growth slows to a crawl. SMEs are always either the next big thing in the $1.1 trillion halal food market and $1.35 trillion Islamic finance market, or the acquisition target, but they rarely get recognized in between.

In the future, the evolution of the Islamic economy will be dictated by not just small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) but microbusinesses that start with an idea and end up creating and capturing a niche market. The Islamic Economy Awards is looking to find these idea-driven SMEs. Last year, the awards highlighted, among other winners:

• Tanamera, a small natural products manufacturer in Malaysia
• Saffron Road, an American halal food producer that equally values the sustainability of its products for a broad consumer base
• TimeZ5, which designed and manufactures the first physiological prayer mat offering pain relief and improved posture

The Islamic economy awards cover eight categories including media, hospitality & tourism, waqf and endowment, SME development, Islamic arts, food & health, finance and Islamic economy knowledge infrastructure. Apart from food and finance, many of these markets are filled with ideas but few established companies, which provides a huge opportunity for people with an idea to meet market demands.

As entrepreneurs know, it is important to find a niche within the market that the bigger companies are not able or not willing to serve and the Islamic economy offers many, both within the established sectors like halal food where specialty producers can tap into consumer demands more rapidly than multinationals or in Islamic finance where the big banks have not found an effective way to tap the base of the pyramid. There are also opportunities in the less developed areas of Islamic art and design and media where a shortage of offerings, highlighted in the Review Report from the 2013 Global Islamic Economy Summit, has constrained growth of entire sectors within the Islamic economy.

The employment crisis facing majority Muslim countries can be solved in part by bringing local ideas to meet local needs, which is always something the SME will be better at than the multinational. But the Islamic economy is not limited to Muslim consumers. As Saffron Road showed with its frozen food offerings, moving beyond just the basics of being halal or sharia-compliant can win consumers among the wider base of customers who are searching for companies that slow down the wheels of production to make sure things are done the right way, in accordance with their values.

The Islamic Economy Awards are searching for the next product that is halal and which can disrupt existing markets and offer consumers something more closely aligned with their values. Nominate yourself or a company you respect in 1 of 8 Islamic Economy Awards. Hurry, the deadline is October 7, 2014!

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