Zilzar.com: Islamic answer to Amazon and Alibaba



Zilzar.com, the newest online global marketplace platform targeted for Muslim products and services, was launched by the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on October 29 2014 with much optimism. “Zilzar”, which means earthquake in Arabic, is aimed at targeting the now US$2.5 trillion Muslim consumer market. Further explaining its target segments from its website:

Zilzar Technology is a B2B and b2c global information, content, community, and transaction platform for the $2.5 Trillion Muslim Lifestyle marketplace consisting of eight silos: $1.08 trillion halal food/beverage, $1.5T Islamic finance, $224 billion clothing/fashion, $151 billion media/recreation, $140 billion Muslim travel/tourism, $70 billion pharmaceutical, $23 billion cosmetics and $15 billion logistics.

First Mover?

Is this really the first online platform attempting to sell Muslim goods and service to a global audience? Not so. There have been several websites set up in the past attempting to target the global market, with many other local variations set up by businesses and organisations in various countries to target their own local customers. However what makes this initiative more promising is the element of support from governments as well as big corporations and institutions in the halal scene such as Hong Leong Islamic Bank and INCEIF. This support is crucial not just for awareness and sponsorship, but also to weather the legalities associated with any serious global platform.

For All Segments?

Back to the segmentation above, while the website aims to a spread of halal markets, the website seems to be heavy on the Islamic finance components. In addition, studies done such as those by Ogilvy Noor also suggest that the food and beverage segment will get most momentum due Muslim consumers in general caring more for the halal aspects in these type of products, as supposed to other areas such Muslim travel and tourism. Indeed, the marketplace numbers above are already reflective too of which markets are clearly more attractive than others. Also, it is worth noting that established portals such as Amazon are clearly more popular for certain products such as books, as supposed to its grocery offering. Hence, it may be wise to get more of the food and beverages industry on board to build more critical mass for the website.

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No Competition?

There are several competitive forces facing the website:

  1. Existing online portals such as Amazon, Alibaba and even IslamicBookstore already have a strong offering of Islamic products and services too. In order to compete, Zilzar must offer retailers a better value proposition by cost or differentiation and not by focus, due to its very nature being a jack for all trades site for all things halal.
  2. Estimates of the Muslim market potential are also usually based on population per se, and may not take into account internet connectivity as one key component in order to access such a site.
  3. Suppliers may not wish to participate due to increase in cost margins and issues with distribution.
  4. Islamic products and services themselves may find it more profitable to market their own e-commerce site as supposed to being diluted in Zilzar.
  5. Buyers’ knowledge of the halal industry is still relatively new. Introducing an online platform, in which the Muslim market may not be used to as well for any other product, adds a layer of complexity.

I sincerely hope Zilzar succeeds. The strategic marketing required to shake the industry must be as strong as its name.

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