4 November 2016

Aladdin Street aims to be a top e-marketplace globally

Source: Aladdin Group. Aladdin himself.
Source: Aladdin Group. Aladdin himself.
Aladdinstreet.com.sg, the world’s first premium-quality products and halal* e-marketplace, has been formally launched. Serving the B2B and B2C communities, the portal offers halal-certified products as well as premium-quality products that do not require halal certification.

Three months since its July 2016 announcement, Aladdinstreet.com.sg has shortlisted 200 merchants for its site and finalised agreements with close to 60 merchants. About half of these offer halal-friendly or halal-certified products. Owned by Muslims and non-Muslims, the businesses provide food, beverages, vitamins, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fashion and other products or services.

Co-founder of the Aladdin Group Dato’** Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie does not see AladdinStreet.com.sg competing against existing marketplaces, instead creating a completely new marketplace that is a milestone for trust in halal goods and services. "When I bought things online I realised I wasn't sure of the quality," he explained. "I worried if they were (genuine)."

Source: Aladdin Group. From left: Dato' Sri Desmond To, Dato' Dr Grace Kong, Dato’ Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie, and Dato' Wesley Ong.
Source: Aladdin Group. From left: Dato' Sri Desmond To, Dato' Dr Grace Kong, Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Dato’ Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie, and Dato' Wesley Ong.

“There has been a growing acceptance of the health benefits for halal products even in non-Muslim countries,” says Dr Al Masrie. “But manufacturers and producers of the halal industry can only meet 20% of this demand because there is a lack of reliable marketing platforms. In fact one of the biggest importers of halal products is actually Singapore, and given the country’s good track record in governance and high standards of halal compliance, Aladdinstreet.com.sg will help these SMEs access this market to its fullest potential.”

On the future of Aladdinstreet.com.sg, former senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, Zainul Abidin Rasheed, is optimistic that the e-commerce site will create new brand purpose, values and new avenues for growth, especially now that Singapore is experiencing an economic slowdown.

"Singapore is well-known for its branding as a business and financial centre, both in terms of its integrity and quality standards, and this applies to its halal standards too," says Zainul, who is currently the non-resident Ambassador to Kuwait and the Foreign Minister's Special Envoy to the Middle East.

Imran Musa, Advisor, Aladdin Group and CEO of ARK, a halal competency developer specialist, noted that the halal opportunity is worth an estimated US$3 trillion by 2019. "Halal is not just religious per se, (it is about) how you process the food, the cosmetics, what kind of allergens are in there, these are things that need to be properly examined. It is a guarantee of a good product," he said. "There are 1.8 billion consumers. More than 600 million of them are IT savvy, they shop online, they do a lot of things online. For Hari Raya, more than 50% of consumers shopped online; that is something that is the way forward for all of us. Singapore is an e-commerce and finance hub. That is why we started with (Singapore)."

Singapore Co-founder & President, Dato’ Dr Grace Kong added that Aladdinstreet.com.sg is not just for Muslims because halal is about making healthier choices for everyone including non-Muslims, and everyone has become more socially conscious of their consumption patterns. Dato’ Kong explains, “They want to know what they eat, wear, what they apply on their face, where it comes from and how the animals were treated. It’s about cruelty free, ethical and sustainable consumption too.”

AladdinStreet Singapore is also focused on educating the public that halal does not only refer to food. Halal cosmetics, health and pharmaceuticals are growing markets, and cosmetic giants from Europe and Korea are already manufacturing halal cosmetics for Muslim markets, the Aladdin Group notes.

"Singapore is one amongst 15 countries which have a Muslim population with the highest purchasing power, as revealed by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The nation has been named the friendliest non-Islamic destination for Muslim travellers for 2012-2014, according to the Global Muslim Travel Index. Countries like China and Japan look to Singapore as a benchmark for a successful halal industry without disrupting social and economic culture. So, Singapore is indeed fortunate to have such capabilities and favourable factors. But doing business in Singapore has never been about simply its local market. Plugging into Singapore's business network and infrastructure typically serves as a powerful launch-pad and gateway to the regional and global market," added Ambassador Zainul. 

Various companies have partnered with AladdinStreet Singapore to extend their reach beyond Singapore and hope to increase sales by 40% in the next 12 months. One of AladdinStreet Singapore’s merchants is Singapore-listed Food Empire, a company since 2000, which has been manufacturing halal-certified instant beverages, frozen food and snacks to Muslim majority markets such as Malaysia, Central Asia and the Middle East. All four of its factories in Malaysia are halal certified. Its partnership with AladdinStreet Singapore aims to further expand its halal business into Southeast Asia.

Artistic-Arrivo offers the Atelo Collagen Jelly Mask on AladdinStreet. The halal-certified product has ingredients that penetrate cells to encourage collagen generation, smooth skin and reduce acne, the company said.

Ice's Secret's Pure Radiance Mask has skin brightening properties. It can be used for the eyes and anywhere the skin is duller, and is suitable as foundation. Apply overnight and wash off in the morning. 100% herbal.

ZAC Meat has been supplying halal meats to restaurants and hotels from day one, and recently expanded to supermarket shelves - and AladdinStreet, says ZAC Business Development Manager Selvam S. ZAC's portfolio includes sausages, cold cuts, ready-to-eat products as well as cheeses, dips, and spices.

The Grayns rice cooker.
Two Grayns rice cookers on display. To the bottom left is the strainer which lets sugar-laden water flow through into the container in the foreground, where it can be used for other purposes like watering plants.

Alcurea is distributing the Grayns rice cooker, which strains out the sugar content of rice, reducing its glycaemic load, as part of the cooking process. Zahid Masauood, MD, Alcurea, said that the distributor had been invited to join AladdinStreet as Dr Al Masrie had started off using Grayns and liked it.

Note Cosmetics was established in 2015 after they noticed a lack of halal cosmetics retailers in the market. The company has since seen an increase in sales from non-Muslim customers, who have grown to appreciate their products because they do not contain ingredients derived from animals.

Nadia Nadzirah of Budinadia poses with her creations. She is modelling one of her limited edition shawls, which has a subtle Western-style print.

Budinadia marries modern and vintage fashion to create limited edition clothing. Founder and MD Nadia Nadzirah has abayas, jubahs with kain songket embellishments, as well as shawls which make use of high quality fabric with Western-style prints. Her collection also includes kurta-style tops for men. Asked why she chose to go with Aladdinstreet Nadia said being part of a community of merchants gives her opportunities to learn that would not have been possible going it alone. (Hashtag: #budinadiaofficial)

Tudung Ku Collection was set up in 2012 to address the modern Muslim woman who want easy-to-wear scarves but with a touch of luxury. It has seen a 20% increase in sales over the last four years.

Tea Ideas offers tea wands instead of tea bags.
Tea Ideas is a Singapore-based company offering tea wands as a new way to enjoy tea.

Goshen Art Gallery sells art on AladdinStreet. Wu Xueli's Rhapsody of Colours.
Goshen Art Gallery will have art on sale at AladdinStreet.com.sg. Pictured is Wu Xueli's Rhapsody of Colours.

Dream Sparkle offers cleaning services on AladdinStreet.
Dream Sparkle offers green cleaning services using steam cleaning, which deep-cleans and sanitises surfaces at homes and offices. Stains can be removed easily from carpets, as the company showed in a demonstration. The water used is drink-quality, the company said.

Sports hijabs from Juz Demure.
Sports hijabs from Juz Demure.
Juz Demure is selling dri-fit sports hijab after the company saw more Muslim women wanting to pursue an active lifestyle without compromising on modesty. The hijab is designed to fit snugly and securely even with a wide range of movement, and under conditions such as under a motorcycle helmet.

The Camellia dri fit hijab, at an introductory price of S$38, also has reflective lines and a logo at the back for safety during night runs. The company has seen an increase in sales of 20% since it started operations in 2015.

“Finally, a trusted and a convenient one-stop e-commerce site for halal and quality products for me and my family, “ says Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad. Fandi will be launching his biography on the site in the future.

In terms of its pricing strategy, Aladdinstreet.com.sg does not plan to indulge in discounts and flash sales often seen with e-commerce sites because its priority is quality and integrity, values driven by its business integrity checks and stringent halal compliance requirements. It is also rolling out a halal educational programme for merchants to help them better understand the halal compliance requirements.

Aladdin expects to be a top 10 e-marketplace globally, hosting over 100,000 merchants and more than 3 million unique products in three years. "Our vision is to become No. 1 in halal e-commerce. The market is huge. We are focusing on quality control, what is premium. We are hoping that in a short time we will be as big as Alibaba," said Dr Al Masrie.

"The key difference that sets Aladdinstreet.com.sg apart from other e-commerce platforms is that our merchants and customers will enjoy support and assistance from Aladdinstreet’s network offices located in 30 countries in phase one and another 20 more in phase two - covering a combined total population of approximately 5 billion consumers," said Dato' Kong. 

AladdinStreet Singapore is one of 29 countries that the Group has since entered into joint ventures, including India, Indonesia, Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Iran and the US. The next announcement to come will be on AladdinStreet China, the Aladdin Group executives said. Today, there are more than 20 million Muslims in China where the domestic demand for halal by non-Muslims is also increasing given the recent food scares there.

The Aladdin Group is also on the verge of confirming an exclusive and first-ever brand partnership with one of the world's biggest football clubs, which will give consumers and merchants access to 650 million fans in over 200 territories, allow for faster access into China and helping to meet AladdinStreet Singapore’s target of S$50 million in sales within the first year of its launch.

Dato' Sri Desmond To, Co-Founder and President, Aladdin Group, disclosed that the company is also negotiating its own Islamic payment gateways in various countries. The gateways will work like AliPay. In Malaysia, the group is working with Maybank, while in Singapore the partnering bank is UOB.


Merchant participation in Aladdinstreet is by invitation only. Listings on Aladdinstreet undergo mandatory halal integrity audits by an in-house team of halal experts before they can be included in the e-marketplace. 

Read the Suroor Asia blog post about Cosmax, the Korean cosmetics company with Indonesian halal certification

Read the Suroor Asia blog post about the halal discussion at the Global Islamic Economy Summit

*In Singapore, agricultural and biochemical products, food and beverage (F&B), pharmaceutical and cosmetics products may be halal-certified. Products in other categories are not covered by the certification process by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), Aladdin executives said. Different halal certification bodies around the world have different rules on what may be certified and what criteria constitute halal.  

**The Dato' Sri honorific in Malaysia is conferred on top performers to a state by the ruler of that state. The title of Dato' is the next level of honorifics conferred on people who have contributed significantly to a state by the ruler of the state. Daro' titles may also be inherited in selected noble families. See this article by Expatgo for more details.