Interview: Feby Latip
In what ways can the halal industry contribute to the country’s economic diversification?
FEBY LATIP: When Brunei Wafirah Holdings was set up, one of the objectives of the company was to have a greater role in the economic diversification of Brunei Darussalam. The global halal industry is worth more than $600bn, so there are a lot of opportunities for the nation to exploit its expertise in the industry and gain a bigger share of the market. While there are numerous halal players, the industry is large enough that securing even a small piece of the pie would have a significant economic impact on the country.
Brunei Darussalam’s intention with launching the Brunei Halal (BH) brand has been to capture more of the global market. Indeed, the brand has positioned itself to be very outward looking. While we are also playing a key role in developing local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the agricultural sector, the focus is to target the huge international market for halal food. The demand is clearly there, so gaining a stronger foothold in the global market is just a matter of pushing the BH brand and what it stands for.
We are targeting specific nations and regions that wish to launch the BH brand. To this end, within Southeast Asia, the brand is already present in Singapore and is currently expanding into Malaysia as well. Indonesia is another target, with an enormous Muslim population and considerable untapped potential for expansion. Additionally, the BH’s UK Office in Birmingham is the launching platform into the UK and continental Europe. By organising its reach through regional offices in target areas, the potential also exists for BH to open future offices in the Middle East, for example.
What strategies are being employed to increase the recognition of the BH brand globally?
FEBY: As the characteristics and nature of the halal food industry within each nation and region is varied, it is important to understand that each target market and to position BH in a way that it will appeal to a diverse demographic. Halal certification in Brunei Darussalam is considered to be one of the most stringent in the world. When you look into the process of attaining certification, there is a breakdown of each and every aspect of the product and a thorough understanding of where it comes from. The focus is no longer simply supplying halal products and being a part of the supply chain, but rather having distribution mechanisms and controls in place to ensure that each part of the chain is truly halal.
While the authenticity of halal certification is generally accepted in the Sultanate, many halal consumers abroad have reservations about the legitimacy of the certification process as halal accrediting bodies around the world are far more splintered. As such, we are keen to show what BH has to offer, and acknowledge that all qualms need to be addressed in order to attain trust and acceptance internationally. Further, tastes vary by region, so the company is adapting its products to appeal to different preferences. It is not simply a matter of taking our pre-existing products from the Bruneian market and placing them in Europe. Our regional offices thus have their own resources and facilities in order to better study and understand the global market and attune the product accordingly.
How are partnerships with local SMEs helping to source products under the BH brand?
FEBY: The process of partnering with local SMEs is a two-way approach. The first option is to use the facilities of local businesses to manufacture something that is applicable to that facility, while the alternative is to take the products of local businesses and rebrand them under the BH label. Many SMEs are eager to partner with the brand as it unifies a variety of products and gives them access to a much wider consumer base.
A number of SMEs that we partner with are still considered “cottage industries” working out of homes. We are taking the initiative to train and groom these operators while implementing globally recognised best practice in manufacturing to encourage their expansion.
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