Islam-centric products have a place in the global market

Farah Anuar Pandith (L), Special Representative to Muslim Community from the US State Department, shakes hands with Mimit e-Technology managing director Hj Rushdi El-Hakim Dato Seri Setia Hj Ibrahim at a meet with iCentre incubatees and bloggers at the iCentre, Berakas. Picture: BT/Saifulizam

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BRUNEI'S entrepreneurs should not balk at promoting their Islam-centric products to the world just because they believe that there might be "preconceived challanges" in the global marketplace, said a US representative to iCentre incubatees yesterday.

US Special Representative to Muslim communities, Farah Anuar Pandith said, "The President's idea of bringing entrepreneurship forward was that 'Well, there are predefined ideas out there', whether you're a social entrepreneur or a technology entrepreneur, or a business entrepreneur, you have an opportunity to make a change."

Farah was referring to US President Obama's meet with over 200 entrepreneurs a majority comprised of Muslim entrepreneurs at an Entrepreneurship Summit in April this year.

Farah brushed aside notions that Muslim entrepreneurs both in Brunei and globally would face preconceived challenges in promoting their Islam-centric products and innovations to the international market.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meet, Farah said she was impressed by an iCentre incubatee's product, the e-Muslim kiosk and would be sourcing appropriate partners in the United States to engage in dialogues with its creater, Mimit e-Technology.

"I've seen a lot of innovative, creative young minds, that are as competitive as any other place I've been on this planet. I just came out of some one-on-one's with the creativity in Brunei and I have to tell you, it's really quite inspirational and quite important that we include Brunei in the global conversation," she said during a press conference. "I very specifically asked to speak to young innovators here in Brunei because it's important for us to know the kinds of innovation that's taking place here," she added.

The e-Muslim mobile application provides Islamic content and services such as prayer times, hadith, teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the history of the prophets and Friday sermons.

Hj Rushdi El-Hakim Dato Seri Setia Hj Ibrahim, managing director of Mimit e-Technology, said he talked about two of his company's products e-Muslim kiosk and the GoHalal project with the US representative who is keen to facilitate a connection with to partners in the US.

"So now, they're trying to get me connected (with these two people) to share our ideas about how we can move forwards in the States, (she was) talking about the e-Muslim, talking about we could do a contest worldwide for the best Friday sermon around the world," he said.

He added that he hoped this would further Mimit's efforts to break into the American market.

Asked if there were any preconceptions or challenges that a Muslim entrepreneur might face in bringing a faith-based product into the global market, Rushdi said that while he has encountered some challenges, "we can just ignore those challenges and probably just try to move forward and collaborate with (others)".

"I think you can just try to open up their eyes," he said of how to combat these preconceptions.

"The muslims in Brunei are trying to open up a lot of things; I think they are open for it, that's why they are here (today) and they're trying to find innovation plans and entrepreneurs who can conquer the US market," he added.

"I hope this visit will increase our chances," he said, adding that Mimit is currently liaising with a number of angel investors in the Silicon Valley, but no confirmed plans have surfaced.

Farah said, "There are many incubation centres in America but "what's really interesting here in Brunei is that people keep saying that Brunei is small, but that doesn't mean their minds are small." She added, "One of the things that was really great about the presentation on the iCentre, is the ThinkBig competition. It's not just a frame of mind but your ideas here in Brunei are just as powerful as anywhere in the world. Why shouldn't they be a part of the global conversation?"

The Brunei Times