My Outlets proxy to booming Singapore halal industry

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH

Singaporean entrepreneurs are poised to jump on the halal bandwagon in the republic. Supermarket entrepreneur Ronnie Faizal Tan is one of them.

In 2013, he set up My Outlets Pte Ltd, one of the few Singaporean supply chain platforms carrying halal food and products from halal certified manufacturers and exporters. Ronnie Faizal is keenly aware of Singapore’s visibility on the international front and he wants to exploit it.

“Singapore is a small country with a highly strategic location, which gives its entrepreneurs an advantage in the logistics aspects.

“Thus, if you are setting up a business here, you are most likely to be seen and it will be easier to convince our overseas counterparts to understand and engage with the business,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

A report by Technavio Research entitled “Global Halal Food Market 2017-2021” revealed that the global halal market, valued at just above US$1 trillion (RM4.3 trillion) in 2016, is set to grow firmly.

According to Singapore Census of Population 2010, the Muslim population in Singapore stood at 497,318.

However, tapping the growing halal market is no walk in the park. Setting up a halal chain is still an effort for Singaporean entrepreneurs. Ronnie Faizal’s own journey in setting up a halal chain in Singapore was full of challenges, but he was willing to take the risk.

“The challenge for me was the funding. I used my own investment in the beginning,” said Ronnie Faizal, who converted at a young age.

Ronnie Faizal (left) and CEO Malek Mattar project sales to reach at least RM860m in the next 3 years

Ronnie Faizal said investor support was lukewarm as many did not see the halal market’s potential in Singapore.

“I did not receive support from the government agencies or Islamic funding. The halal model that we have built is replicable and sustainable, which has been proven by our expansion to non-Muslim countries such as China, South Korea and Japan.

“Many interested investors have been following our growth, but they are hesitant to be involved,” he said.

Despite all the challenges, Ronnie Faizal is hopeful for My Outlets and plans to expand the business.

“My Outlets will continue to expand. We project sales to reach at least US$200 million in the next three years and we expect the revenue to reach US$75 million,” he said.

In addition, Ronnie Faizal launched earlier this year My Outlets’ digital arm, Haladeen.com, an online platform for halal manufacturers, suppliers, sellers and buyers to have access to the halal market in a global scale.

Haladeen.com is another spin-off from My Outlets. The prime objective is to create a global and multi-vendor platform that has an access to business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customers (B2C) marketplace.

“Since its launch in February 2017, we have reached out to countries like South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Italy and Malaysia. More than 500 vendors have signed up,” he said.

Meant to go global, Haladeen.com displays a range of halal-certified local and international food items. The website also provides a language translation assistance for better merchant and customer experience and interactivity.

“Online means lesser investment. However, when dealing with halal products especially food, it is convenient to have a physical store,” he said.

Though online platform means wider audience and reach, it has its downside.

“Transporting food is not always easy. Logistics across borders is a hassle, unless there is an offline retail branch that can accommodate the domestic and international markets. Hence, without an offline platform, it is not possible to roll out the online platform,” he said.

With the current interest in China, My Outlets has also ventured into the Chinese market. Last month, Ronnie Faizal visited Alibaba.com’s headquarters in China to set up online and offline stores in Beijing.

“The China government has been introducing the One Belt, One Road concept. Along the journey, there will be a huge demand for halal products. We are expecting at least 200,000 certified halal products from Asia, which will arrive at our halal centre within the next two years destined for China,” he said.

New research by the US-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life stated that the Muslim population around the world will grow by 25% by 2030. Today, Muslims make up about 2% of China’s population.

Ronnie Faizal said the current challenges for China to have a halal chain or store are the lack of raw supply, food technology and halal certification.

“Since My Outlets and Haladeen.com have been in the field working with many global partners, we have been invited to operate a 45,000-sq ft halal centre at the heart of Beijing and introduce our expertise in the product sourcing, retail services and incubation centre for both local and overseas partners,” he said.