Saudis get a taste of traditional Indonesian medicine

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Updated 20 August 2020

Saudis get a taste of traditional Indonesian medicine

  • First export of jamu worth $100,000 adds spice to Kingdom’s herbal market

JAKARTA: Indonesia is looking to make inroads into Saudi Arabia’s herbal drug market following its first export of jamu, a traditional medicine, to the Kingdom last week, officials told Arab News.

Sido Muncul, a publicly listed herbal producer, shipped a container of jamu — a slow-brewed herbal tonic containing turmeric and other herbs — to the Kingdom on Aug. 10.

The shipment is worth nearly $100,000, company CEO Irwan Hidayat told Arab News.

Jamu is the go-to drink for Indonesians, who value it for its medicinal properties.

Hidayat said that the company has previously shipped Tolak Angin — an over-the-counter tonic comprising ginger, clove, fennel fruit, mint and honey — to Indonesian stores in the Kingdom.

“But this shipment marked our first official export as our product has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and the product labeling is written in Arabic. It will be distributed by our local importer partner and sold by major retailers,” he said.

The term “tolak angin” means repelling the wind and is the antonym of masuk angin or catching a cold. Masuk angin is used by Indonesians to describe how they feel when suffering from the flu.

Hidayat said Sido Muncul is looking to secure a distribution license for a more significant market share in the Kingdom.

“We are planning to submit more of our products for registration to the Saudi FDA. It would be good for us if we can get the SFDA’s license for distribution as it will increase our chances of securing the local consumers’ trust,” he said.

While the main consumer target will be Indonesians living in the Kingdom, Tolak Angin is already a favorite among Saudis, according to its distributor.

Kasan Muhri, trade ministry director-general for national export development, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is a “captive market” for Indonesian jamu products given the potential number of Indonesians living in the country and visiting for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage.

Indonesia has the world’s largest annual Hajj quota, with 221,000 pilgrims with nearly 1 million Indonesians visiting the Kingdom every year to perform Umrah.

“We also aim for Filipinos and other Southeast Asians, who have similar consumer behavior to Indonesians and are no strangers to herbal medicine,” Muhri said.

Sido Muncul’s first export of jamu is based on a trade deal forged with Mizanain Marketing and Trading, a Saudi Arabian distributor, during the 2019 Trade Expo Indonesia held outside Jakarta in October last year.

Muhri said the ministry is optimistic the exports will spur Indonesia’s biopharmaceutical and food sectors’ efforts to penetrate the global market, despite restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Muhri, this is also a notable move for Indonesia’s trade to Saudi Arabia since the biopharmaceutical and food and beverage sectors are exempted from the Kingdom’s recent tariff increase on 500 varities of products.

Data from Statistics Indonesia showed that exports of biopharmaceutical products increased to $4.2 million or 32.8 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year — a favorable outcome despite the decline in purchasing power globally.


Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 22 September 2020

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.