From halal meal boxes to modest menswear: Top UK Islamic economy trends for 2018

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Haute Elan expects growing interest in ‘modest’ male fashion. (Supplied)
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Romanna bint Abu Baker, founderof London Modest Fashion Week.(Supplied)
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Updated 30 December 2017
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From halal meal boxes to modest menswear: Top UK Islamic economy trends for 2018

LONDON: Gone are the days where “halal” shopping referred only to a trip to the local butchers to ask for a special cut. Muslims across the world are increasingly product-savvy, seeking out the latest consumer products that also fit their religious beliefs, spelling a boom in the so-called Islamic economy.
The year ahead ushers in trends for modest garb for men and women, Barbies with mix-and-match abaya wardrobes, and from-scratch meal kits for those who want both a tasty, and halal, dinner.
As the international Muslim population grows, the Islamic economy is expected to grow from $1.24 trillion in 2016 to reach $1.93 trillion by 2022, according to the Thomson Reuters “State of the Global Islamic Economy” report.
In the UK, in particular, which is home to around 3 million Muslims — with 1 million in London alone — the Islamic community is fueling some innovative consumer trends. The UK capital is proving to be an engine of growth for the Islamic economy in the West, with fresh startups emerging every month to tap into growing demand.
Arab News spoke with some of the UK’s top Islamic economy entrepreneurs to find out about some of the hottest trends for 2018.

‘Modest fashion’ for guys
The overall modest fashion industry is thriving in the UK, evidenced by the success of homegrown brands such as Aab and Haute Elan. This trend was crystallized with the launch of London’s first Modest Fashion Week in February 2017, where modern Muslim women flocked to buy everything from modest office wear to sports hijabs.
The trend will dip into the male domain next year, predicted Romanna bint Abu Baker, founder of London Modest Fashion Week (LMFW) and owner of modest fashion boutique, Haute Elan.
“Modesty is no longer the realm of only women. LMFW 2018 will be the start of demonstrating that shift,” Abu Baker told Arab News. “The panels and collections we have on the runway will demonstrate the emergence of the aesthetically-conscious Muslim man. We have seen a surge in applications from men. What is male modesty? Longer shirts to cover the rear, longer shirts and sweats and accessories, including more contemporary styles of … head covering,” she said.

Halal meal kits
The last few years have seen the emergence of halal convenience foods in the UK for busy working Muslims. Walli Datoo, co-founder of Halalnivore, an online gourmet halal meat delivery service, predicts there is more growth in the market as the Muslim meat consumer opens up to different options available.
“We are planning to experiment with a hybrid model between what we already do and a service that similar to a ‘Hello Fresh’ or ‘Gousto’ meal box delivered with halal ingredients,” Datoo told Arab News. “We’ll also be working on our branded ‘supper club’ to help engage consumers.”
The food entrepreneur also predicts more innovation in the restaurant space “where halal-only offerings are trying to set themselves apart from the competition.”
“Casual dining places (burgers and wraps) will be getting really creative with their menus and moving away from the traditional kebab shop and plain burger offerings,” he said.
Noman Khawaja, co-founder of Haloodies, a UK premium food retailer that sells prepared halal meats says technology and social media will play a key part in driving demand for halal food in 2018. “Consumer behavior will also be of key interest to businesses,” Khawaja told Arab News.
Haloodies launched the UK’s first handheld, halal meat snack, ‘2Go’ in the UK in 2017 and Khawaja said the firm has more launches planned for 2018.

‘Hijarbies’ and Muslim dolls
Jessica Robinson, the founder of UK-based modest sports fashion firm Shorsa, predicts steady demand for her additional product line: Muslim dolls.
The company is currently selling Shorso Mini dolls, which come with a handmade abaya and matching hijab and retail for £19.99 ($27).
The firm also sells different modest outfits specifically made for Barbie dolls. The ‘Hijarbie’ handmade outfits come in casual styles and formal styles including ball gowns and wedding dresses with sleeves. “They’re close to selling out and we’re ordering more for next year,” said Robinson.

Halal hotel boom
The UK halal-friendly travel market is growing year-on-year. In recent years, VisitBritain, the UK’s national tourism agency, has been running campaigns to target tourists from the Middle East. According to its figures, the average length of stay and average spend for Gulf markets are higher than the worldwide average.
For example, the average Saudi visitor stays for 16 nights and spends £2,370 in the UK. This compares favorably with the overall average figures for international visitors at seven nights and £599 spend respectively.
“One of the big attractions for this market in London is its choice of world cuisine halal restaurants; our guests enjoy eating out and spending money in the various halal restaurants in London. Together with other factors, such as great museums, parks and shopping streets and malls, these are hugely important factors for halal-conscious travelers to travel to London,” said Ufuk Seçgin, chief marketing officer at UK-based global travel booking site HalalBooking.com.
Seçgin predicts that more London hotels will offer basic halal-friendly services in 2018, such as the removal of alcoholic drinks from the minibar in the guest’s room, provision of prayer mats or halal food options on the hotel’s restaurant menus.

Mainstream at last
Haroon U B Latif, head of insights at research firm Dinar Standard, says he is “bullish” on the UK economy for 2018.
“The UK halal ecosystem will grow its international footprint and halal food will lead the charge at home — you’ll see halal becoming more available in mainstream outlets,” the analyst said.
Latif predicts there will be at least one “significant” private equity investment in a halal food company in 2018.


Saudi-backed SoftBank to ramp up tech investment

Updated 41 min 18 sec ago
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Saudi-backed SoftBank to ramp up tech investment

  • SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to step up company's "unicorn hunting" investment strategy
  • Saudi Arabia's PIF has contributed $45 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund

LONDON: Japanese conglomerate SoftBank will double down on its ambitious tech investment strategy, in a move that could create opportunities for further collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
SoftBank — which owns Japan’s third-largest telecoms operator — has emerged in recent years as one of the world’s largest tech investors, acquiring stakes in companies including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and UK chipmaker ARM Holdings.
It last year launched the $100 billion Vision Fund, boosted by a $45 billion investment from PIF. It attracted $93 billion in funds last year, aided by contributions from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, Apple, Foxconn and others, making it the world’s largest buyout fund.
The Vision Fund has invested in disruptive firms, especially those in the technology space, including Swiss pharmaceuticals startup Roivant, office space company WeWork, and enterprise messaging service Slack.
CEO Masayoshi Son signaled that such dealmaking will become even more of a focus for SoftBank.
“I have spent 97 percent of my time on managing the telecoms business and only 3 percent on investing,” he told investors at the group’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Reversing that balance will allow SoftBank to grow faster, he said.
Son’s comments fit with a transformation underway at SoftBank from a domestic telecoms firm to “unicorn hunter” — as Son termed it — focusing on late-stage startups around the world.
Last month, SoftBank invested $2.25 billion in GM Cruise, the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle unit, complementing its shareholdings in China’s Didi Chuxing, the world’s largest ride-sharing app, as well as rivals Uber, Grab and Ola.
The Vision Fund will initially invest $900 million in GM Cruise Holdings, investing the remaining $1.35 billion when GM’s Cruise AVs are ready for commercial deployment. The investment gives the Vision Fund a 19.6 percent stake in GM Cruise.
Saudi Arabia’s PIF has been key to SoftBank’s tech investment strategy with its contribution to the Vision Fund, with the Kingdom also benefiting directly from partnerships with SoftBank.
Son said in November that SoftBank planned to invest as much as $25 billion in the Kingdom in the next three to four years, and aimed to deploy up to $15 billion in Neom, a futuristic city to be built on the Red Sea coast.
PIF and the Vision Fund in March announced a partnership to build the world’s largest solar project in Saudi Arabia, with a capacity of up to 200 gigawatts, in line with the Kingdom’s solar ambitions as set out in Vision 2030.
The agreement will establish an electricity generation company in Saudi Arabia, and will commission two solar plants with a capacity of 3GW and 4.2GW by the end of next year. It envisages localizing a significant portion of the renewable energy value chain in the Saudi economy, including research and development and the manufacturing of solar panels.
SoftBank shareholders on Wednesday approved the appointment of three executive vice presidents — SoftBank unit Sprint Corp’s former chief executive, Marcelo Claure, and former bankers Katsunori Sago and Rajeev Misra.
Bolivian-born billionaire Claure was appointed SoftBank’s chief operating officer in May, tasked with driving cooperation between the group’s portfolio companies. Former Goldman Sachs executive Sago became chief strategy officer on Wednesday and will focus on group investment. Misra runs the Vision Fund.
Son yesterday bemoaned the so-called conglomerate discount weighing on SoftBank’s shares at its investor meeting.
He said when the market value of stakes the firm holds in companies such as Alibaba Group Holding and ARM Holdings are taken into account, SoftBank’s shares should be trading above 14,000 yen ($127), rather than about 8,000 yen currently.