50 Leading Business Schools of the Muslim World (OIC)

The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is an international organization consisting of 57 members states with the goal of being the collective voice of the Muslim world. The below lis is not a ranking but a listing of the most prominent business universities within the OIC member countries.  Read more about this listing here.  DinarStandard is now surveying for full-rankings to be released in 2012. Universities interested in participating should contact us.

You can click on each university page for more details.

  • Analysis: For OIC based employers, top talent is now available in their own backyards.
  • Islamic Finance: A sub-list of the B-Schools that offer Islamic finance programs
  • Select Videos – Click here.


DinarStandard is now surveying for full-rankings to be released in 2012.
OIC based universities that are interested should contact us.

Indofood: Indonesia’s Total Food Solution Company

Imagine operating a recession-resistant company. Imagine that this company specialized in food, during the global food crisis.  Now imagine specializing in food and expanding during a crisis. As the world faces the challenges of food security, one company is successfully finding global opportunities; it is Indonesia’s largest food producer– Indofood.

Indofood business group is the largest instant noodle producer in the world.  Its instant noodle brand, Indomie, is the best known brand in Indonesia.  Indofood has a wide business portfolio which includes consumer branded products, noodles, dairy, seasonings, snacks, nutrition and special foods, packaging, agribusiness, plantations, cooking oils and fats, commodities, and distribution.

Since its establishment in 1997, Indofood has become an inseparable part of the Indonesian lifestyle. It has received much global prominence as well. Its main accomplishment lies in the strength of its brands. These include instant noodles (Indomie, Supermi and Sarimi), dairy (Indomilk and Cap Enaak), wheat flour (Segitiga Biru, Kunci Biru and Cakra Kembar), cooking oil (Bimoli), and margarine (Simas Palmia).

Despite intense competition, these brands remain market leaders with a reputation for quality, and are also very well accepted by various market segments.

The Steps to Total Food Solutions

Indofood is nearing its vision “to become a total food solutions company,” through several savvy business strategies.

In 2005, the company settled a joint venture with Nestlé and the acquisition of several plantation companies. From 2006 to 2008, the company continued to acquire several shipping and plantations companies, strengthening its agribusiness and distribution. In 2008, the company expanded its reach and entered the dairy sector.

The following two years, ending 2010, witnessed a major internal consolidation overhaul, and PT Indofood CBP Sukses Makmur (“ISM”) (BEI : INDF) was formed.

President and Chief Executive Officer Anthoni Salim revealed that the company was performing solidly and had achieved sustainable growth for six years beginning in 2005.  The results reflect the strength of the core business and management skills in addressing opportunities and challenges in the market.

Despite the recent bout of food shortages over recent years, Indofood has proved resilient and has maintained a wide control over its supply chain. Due to such confident sutures in holding the company together, a positive outlook remains in tact in facing the current food shortage and price surges of raw material. It may very well be that being such a large player, Indofood’s safety net is its economies of scale, allowing the company – to a certain extent – to control the prices in the sectors where it bodes as a market leader.

Indofood Financials (2007-2010)

Changing Lifestyle Rewards Indomie

Through lifestyle changes, Indomie, the instant noodle brand of the company has become its biggest success, hinting that the staple plate of rice is beginning to play second fiddle to many household menus.  Indomie has won a variety of prestigious awards such as Consumer Satisfaction Award Indonesia, Indonesia Best Brand Award, and Top Brand Award. In 2009, Indomie also clinched the Most Powerful Distribution Performance Award.

The success of Indomie is a result of the three A strategies; (1) acceptability of the product; (2) availability through distribution networks, and (3) affordability, reflected in Indomie’s retail prices.

Currently, Indofood is the largest player in the instant noodle market in Indonesia, as well as the biggest company in the instant noodle industry worldwide. Last year, Indofood started to build three new factories to increase the number of instant noodle production to 17.74 billion packs per year. The factories are expected to be completed in 2013.

A Look at the first ever Halal Food Investable Index

For all those who have wondered when and how the $1 trillion+ Islamic Finance industry and the estimated $640 billion+ world-wide ‘Halal’ food industry will ever connect—we hopefully now have a tool that will kick this off.

ThomsonReuters, in partnership with IdealRatings, have recently launched the SAMI Halal Food Index (Socially Acceptable Market Investments) which is a collection of food industry companies listed on OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) member country public markets and screened for Halal compliance.  This Index has turned part of the Halal food market into an asset-class and made them approachable to the usually risk-averse Islamic Finance industry.

As large and real the Halal food industry is, it’s ironic very little Islamic Finance investment or transactions have taken place in the sector.  Conversely, the Halal food industry, which by definition is adhering to Islamic principles, has for the most part ignored Islamic compliance of their financing.  Furthermore, they are forgoing an available and compliant capital source that Islamic Finance can provide.

This first of its kind Halal Food Index was unveiled at the opening of the World Halal Forum on April 4th, 2011 by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Malaysian prime minister.  The visionary behind the Index, Mr. Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Head of Islamic Finance and OIC at ThomsonReuters, calls this the re-uniting of twins separated at birth.

Here are some basic facts about the SAMI index and comments from Mr. Siddiqui on its relevance to individual investors, Islamic Finance industry, and the Halal food industry.

Summary Profile

The Socially Acceptable Market Investments (Sami) Halal Food Index is about companies involved in food processing, distribution, fishing, farming, etc. The companies in the index, at stage one, are from 15 OIC member countries, about 270 plus companies with market capitalization of $114 billion.

SAMI Index key criteria:

  • Nation: Member of OIC countries
  • Business Activity: Restaurants, Beverages – Non-alcoholic, Fishing, Farming, Food Processing, Food Distribution
  • Non-permissible Revenue: Has no revenue from pork, alcohol, tobacco and impermissible foods
  • Investment Guidelines: Set of Minimum Market Cap, Minimum Free Float Market Cap and Trading Volume restrictions
  • Shariah Compliance: Equities have to be compliant according to respective Shariah mandate
  • (Click here to download PDF document with detailed methodology)
  • (See list of top performing SAMI Index Companies)

What is the relevance of this Index to retail investors?

Muslims, as consumers, already invest in these companies by buying their Halal products. Now they can be investors of such companies by purchasing shares in these companies directly or through funds. To those (Muslims) who have been saying investing in the stock market is gambling–investing in publicly listed Halal food companies in Muslim countries becomes a true investment vehicle for its own local/regional economies.

Shariah compliance is not enough for many retail Muslim investors, there has to be more connectivity to companies if Islamic investing is going to make commercial bank depositors into capital market investors. For example, there are only 560 plus Islamic funds and total AUMs of $37B, and we speak about 1.6 billion Muslims, do the math!

Islamic equity investors in the west have difficulties understanding why and how Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Pfizer, etc., are Shariah compliant, but they invest because (1) approved by a Shariah scholar AND (2) there is, at minimum, market performance.  The dilemma of understanding becomes more pronounced in Muslim countries where investors typically invest locally or regionally, as they know these companies, use their products, etc.

What does this index mean for Islamic finance?

The industry has been talking about authenticity, innovation, Sharia based funds etc, and the Sami Halal Food index may just be the model for these. It is about Muslim money staying in Muslim countries for growing and building companies that contribute to the real economy.

For Islamic finance, the Halal industry has generally been viewed as the (1) ‘kebabs for lunch’ and (2) as a business model deemed too risky for Islamic corporate loans. But, when Halal presented also as an asset class and about inward investments or even investment banking, it becomes an interesting conversation.

One of the attractiveness of this Index is that it’s much easier to explain to the users/consumers of Halal products.  In the west, typically consumers of products become investors of those companies. It may even go as far as HNWs buying these companies because the products are superior.

Thus, we can now take this Sami Halal food index, 200 plus companies from the Muslim countries, and create a fund based on it for investors. These potential investors are also consumers of these companies’ products in their respective countries. For example, if I’m a fund sales-person tasked to gather investor’s money into the fund, the sales script is much easier than other Shariah compliant funds. The consumer will realize the credibility of the offering, because they are familiar with the company products.

Relevance to Halal Food Industry Players

The Halal food industry has not done itself well in explaining its proposition to either Islamic finance or media journalists in Islamic finance. For example, there is a well known journalist covering Islamic finance for about 20 years, and his coverage on the Sami Halal food Index was that Islamic finance may not move from its comfort zone of real estate understandings to give compliant loans to Halal food manufacturers. Yes, agreed. But, here we are talking about two areas where Sukuk can be utilized by Halal food companies:

1.     To build factories where Halal food is ‘made,’ a true asset backed financing, an Ijara Sukuk makes sense, all things being equal to conventional loans/bonds and level regulatory/tax field. Thus, a Sukuk financed Halal food factory, is an end to end Shariah based solution!

2.     Many of the Halal companies have been built/ financed by conventional debt, hence; fail the debt/asset or debt/market cap financial ratios of Shariah compliant screening. This presents an interesting opportunity to issue a Sukuk and refinance conventional debt with Islamic paper, hence, increase supply of corporate Sukuk and number of companies in the Halal food space that pass the Shariah complaint financial screens. Malaysia has shown this can be done, and has done it. For example, during my days at my previous employer, an index provider, PLUS, the major toll operator, was failing the debt screen, issued a Sukuk (aligned to AAOIFI standards) and sued proceeds to refinance conventional and BBA debt, hence, becoming a  Shariah complaint company in the Islamic index for the country.

What is the role of IdealRatings and World Halal Forum?

IdealRatings has been screening companies for Sharia adherence for a number of years. They do research-based screening over the commonly used automated screening. World Halal Forum, along with International Halal Integrity Alliance, has full understanding of the Halal food process.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Malaysian prime minister, congratulating Mr. Rushdi Siddiqui on the launch of the SAMI Index at the World Halal Forum held April 4-5, 2011, in Malaysia

What are the challenges faced by food companies in the index?

The major challenges include: (1) excessive weighting of Malaysia’s Sime Derby, we had to put a ceiling on its weighting to 20 per cent; (2) free float is small for many companies and (3) illiquidity for many companies. These are common issues when investing in emerging and frontier markets. However, the more important point is that these companies, including the small capitalized companies, are now in the world’s first Halal Food Index, and are on the radar screens of investors.

What are the expectations of the Index?

We expect investment products like mutual and exchange-traded funds will be launched off of the Index, giving consumers another viable avenue to invest. A Halal food fund may be easier to explain to the Muslim ‘woman and man on the street’ than Sharia compliant companies like Exxon Mobile, Pfizer or Procter & Gamble. As the index gathers traction over time in the marketplace, it will become a high-profile index, hence, an ideal marketing opportunity for investor relations department for companies in the index. It may even encourage privately held Halal food companies to go public to be included in the index.

SAMI Halal Food Participation Index (March ‘10 – March ‘11)

(Disclaimer Note:  DinarStandard is on the Advisory Board of the SAMI Halal Food Index)

Related:  DinarStandard Research Brief “State of Food Insecurity & Opportunities in the OIC Countries.”

State of Food Insecurity & Opportunities in OIC Countries

DinarStandard Advisory: Research Brief


Do you remember the food crisis riots of 2008 that spread across Egypt, Bangladesh, Yemen and many other developing countries?  According to the World Bank, the 2008 increases (eg. wheat and rice prices doubled) added 119 million malnourished people world-wide, bringing the total to nearly one billion (967 million) people globally malnourished!

So where are we today?  While food prices had come down somewhat since 2008, they are going up again and more so than ever.   Between March 2010-11, sugar prices had increased 60%, soybeans, 41%, and wheat 24%.    As a result, according to the World Bank Food Price Watch Report, 44 million additional people went into extreme poverty (just between June 2010- Jan 2011).

Within the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference mostly Muslim majority 57) countries there are essentially four categories of countries who are exposed to the food crisis in different ways.   Those suffering the most are facing high malnutrition and are also net food importers (e.g. Somalia, Tajikistan, Yemen).  Then there are those with high malnutrition but ironically are also agriculturally endowed countries (e.g. Pakistan, Sudan.)   The third category is of high-income OIC nations who are major importers of food and exposed to global food supply fluctuations (e.g. UAE, Saudi Arabia.)  The final category is of those OIC countries who are major exporters of food while maintaining a healthy nutrition rate (e.g. Turkey, Malaysia.) and are relatively the most secure.

In this research brief we present the state of food security across the 57 member OIC countries.  Given our focus on the business sector, we look primarily at business and investment opportunities that also address and solve OIC food security needs.   We present here a unique OIC-wide food and agriculture cluster approach that identifies opportunities for sustainable growth and investments.

OIC Countries Impact:

According to the latest Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, an average of 15% of the total population of the 57 OIC countries is under-nourished.  The more immediate human impact of this increase is most felt in

Definitions:Food security: exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foodUndernourishment: describes the status of persons whose food intake regularly provides less than their minimum energy requirementsSource: FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

low-income, food deficit countries.  For citizens of low-income countries, average of 60-65% of income goes to food, whereas food is only 10-20% of income expenditure for developed countries.   This in-turn creates other problems as families can no longer afford education for their children and medical care in order to put food on their tables.

In addition to the human hunger crisis, for the richer OIC countries who are net food importers the concern is in reliable food supply.  Many commentators have also attributed rising food prices as one of the factors that sparked unrest across the Arab countries especially in cases of low-income countries or where prosperity is unjustly usurped by corrupt leadership.  Undoubtedly, the impact of food price increases is a critical issue.

Among the four categories of OIC countries that are being affected by the Food crisis, first are countries that have disproportionately high undernourishment amongst the population.  According to the 2010 FAO report, “State of Food Insecurity in the World,” amongst the OIC countries, Somalia has the highest percentage of population undernourished at 62%, whereas Pakistan has the highest number of undernourished people at 44 million (26% of the population.)

Ironically, some of these most undernourished OIC countries have large areas of arable land led by Sudan (20.7 million hectares), Pakistan (20.3 million hectares), Bangladesh (7.9 million hectares), and Afghanistan (7.8 million hectares).   These are the second category of countries.  They are also major global food commodity producers.  For example, Pakistan is world’s 4th largest dairy manufacturer, Bangladesh is a major rice producer, Sudan is a major livestock (goat and sheep meat) producer etc.  These countries present tremendous investment opportunities, requiring sustainable investment to boost productivity


The third set of countries affected by the food crisis are high-income OIC countries, some of whom are significant net importers of food, specially the one’s with low arable lands.   Pressured by uncertainty of food supplies and costs for imports, many of these countries are pursuing outside food and agriculture investments in order to control their food supply.

All six of the GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain) are the leading high-income, net food importers, from OIC countries.  Others include Lebanon, Libya, Jordan, Albania, and Brunei.  Except for Saudi Arabia, all of these countries also have small arable areas for agricultural development.  For Saudi Arabia and many GCC states that do have arable land, water scarcity is a major limitation to agricultural effectiveness.

The UAE and the other GCC states are following steps taken by China and investing heavily in agricultural land internationally.  According to a Gulf News report, by shipping the produce home and bypassing world markets, they can cut food costs by up to 25 per cent.   According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), UAE ranked third in the amount of agricultural land obtained by selected investors between 2006 and 2009. In first and second places were China and South Korea.

However, such investments are coming under much scrutiny and have to be carefully pursued.  Large-scale land acquisitions are known to cause land expropriation or unsustainable use, making foreign investments in agricultural land politically unpopular. Also, securing the interest of small farmers is a key component in creating a true win-win opportunity. Therefore such investments have to involve host governments, and the local people to ensure that these acquisitions/investments are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared.  Besides land acquisitions, the investments are also looking at food processing, logistics and infrastructure investments that make a big part of food value chain costs.

The final category of OIC countries are the most food secure.  These are low malnutrition, and agriculturally endowed countries who are either net food exporters or have large agriculture land that hasn’t been utilized or needs to be made productive.  While fairly mature in their production, they present attractive investment opportunities as well.

Overall, the response to the food crisis in OIC countries seems to be much more geared towards the security of high-income countries rather than the low-income ones that are agriculturally endowed but are in need of investments with shared benefits.

Food & Agriculture Opportunities: A OIC-wide Cluster Approach

OIC countries’ total food & agriculture trade balance stood at -$40.1 billion in 2009 with imports worth $126 billion (12% of global imports,) whereas its total exports were worth $85 billion (8% of global exports.) (Source: UN’s International Trade Center data.)

Based on our earlier description of the four categories of OIC countries and the nature of their resources, food supplies and demands, we see complementary opportunities among these markets . DinarStandard Research & Advisory has applied its OIC Industry Clustering Model across OIC food supply and demand centers to identify unique investment and growth opportunities.

Why a Region-Wide Cluster Approach?

Given global technology and communication developments, complementary business operations no longer need to be in close proximity to each other (e.g. Silicon Valley).  Rather, a complementary set of competencies within various regions combine to deliver a more robust Cluster.  Global companies such as P&G, GE and most all of the innovative companies have different operational setups across the world that come together to deliver world-class solutions.

Within such clusters, a Hub is a particular location that has sufficient critical mass to support driving development, while a Node is a location that can significantly support a Hub with complementary processes.

The OIC Food & Agriculture Cluster Opportunities

Within the OIC member countries, at the highest level and based on overall exports, the OIC Food & Agriculture hubs are Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey.  Meanwhile, the nodes are Ivory Coast, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria and Kazakhstan. DinarStandard’s OIC based list of food companies as well as the recently released SAMI index highlight some of the major OIC based Food & Agriculture companies showing a presence of strong domestic players.

The more meaningful view of the Cluster is at the specific sub-cluster level.  DinarStandard Research & Advisory has identified 30+ subsector OIC clusters covering Animal & Animal Products, Vegetable products, Food processing/ manufacturing, and Services sub-sectors.

Value creation from amongst these clusters is derived from finding inefficiencies, product/services gaps and sustainable productivity needs, within different part of their value chain (see Diagram below). These gaps and needs can then generate opportunities in three areas:

  1. Investment opportunities: M&A, technology investment, and Joint Venture opportunities are the primary opportunities.  Target Company capabilities can be strengthened through investments in productivity, marketing and research.  For Institutional investors, investments can also be pursued through funds associated with the recently launched SAMI Index.
  2. Halal value chain alliances:  Given the fast growing ‘Halal’ food market is seeking‘farm to fork’ halal verifications, through such OIC food clusters, we are able to identify relevant Halal certified partners to improve efficiencies and competitiveness.
  3. New growth markets:  The OIC food clusters also show gaps and opportunities where companies can expand into the weaker markets.

Current Global Food Price Trends:

The Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN maintains a global Food Prices index which is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.  As of May 2011, the Food Price Index is higher than it was at its peak in 2008.  While the steep rise of sugar prices has subsided, cereal prices (wheat and rice) continue to rise.  So for many in the OIC countries for whom wheat is a big part of their diet this is a particular problem (e.g. as much as 35 percent of daily calories consumed in Arab countries come from wheat alone, according to latest World Bank Food Security study.)

Key Food Crisis Drivers

A variety of reasons, short-term and long-term are being attributed to the growing global food crisis.  The extent of each reasons impact is widely debated, however it is clear these are all contributing to the crisis.  Below is our summary of the key drivers that include demand-side fundamentals, supply-side fundamentals, market barriers related drivers, and finally one we feel is important not to ignore — social drivers.


Population growth & Affluence

According to the World Bank, agricultural production will have to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed a population of some 9 billion people by then.  In addition, the growing affluence of major population centers India and China is increasing the demand for food and increasing overall consumption habits.  In some developing countries there has been a doubling of per-capita meat consumption which in-turn also affects the feed demand for animals.


Use of valuable land and growing edible crops for bio-fuels to address energy shortages is also having an adverse effect of food availability at least at some levels.  Various studies show the impact to be at different levels, with estimates ranging from 75% of food price increase attributed to Bio-fuels to less than 3%.


Rising Input prices

High Oil prices have been attributed to short-term increases in food prices.  As the oil prices subsided after 2008, food prices also came down.  However, the continued fluctuation in oil and other energy prices continue to have an impact on food prices as well.

Climate change, natural disasters, drought

Crop failure in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan were attributed as triggers of the 2008 food crisis when Russia put export controls on its production to preserve local food security.  According to UN, the 2010 Pakistan floods submerged fifth of the land area destroying millions of hectares of farmland and killing 1.2 million livestock.


Water Scarcity

Given that only a few percent of world’s water is suitable for human use, and given population growths and other demands, water shortages maybe even a bigger fundamental crisis than food.  Food we eat of course involves much water use to produce. A FinancialTimes report cited that it takes 140 litres of fresh water to make just a single cup of coffee!  A hamburger requires 2,400 litres of water, counting the water that goes to irrigating the wheat and producing the cattle feed.  Saudi Arabia has slowed its local agriculture development plans because of the massive water intake involved.

Lack of Productivity

Given all the factors affecting food availability, productivity of food production and delivery (in a sustainable manner) is a key contributor to addressing food crisis.    According to a report by ECG this productivity is not just in food production, but also access to water, access to credit, formalization of land rights, transportation, marketing, etc.  However, many of the OIC countries lag behind in productivity as well as investments in it.  For example, a recent World Bank report shows that across the Arab countries cereal production yields are currently only half of the average yield worldwide—and the gap is growing.  The same report shows that investment in agricultural research and development, which despite average rates of return of 36 percent in Arab countries, receives less funding than in the rest of the world.

Loss of agricultural land

According to The Foresight Project report, about 24% of 11.5 billion hectares of vegetated land has already undergone human-induced soil degradation.  It warns that in the next 40 years, agricultural land will be lost to urbanization, desertification, sea level rise and increasingly salty water.


Speculation & Hoarding

While many of the fundamental drivers cannot be argued against as contributors to the growing food crisis, financial market speculation has emerged as another big driver.   According to a well circulated report by Oilivier De Schutter, UN’s special rapporteur on the right of food, “ there is a reason to believe that a significant role was played by the entry into markets for derivatives based on food commodities of large, powerful institutional investors such as hedge funds, pension funds and investment banks, all of which are generally unconcerned with agricultural market fundamentals.”  According to the Report, this new phenomenon began given recent de-regulations which allowed bankers to take large positions in grains as they liked, an opportunity that had mostly been available to only those who actually had something to do with the production of food.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (“IFPRI”) reports that, “rising expectations, speculation, hoarding, and hysteria are among the additional factors that have played a role in the increasing level and volatility of food prices.”

Trade policies

The 2008 food crisis prompted widespread use of export controls in global trade.   These controls added to the crisis because they tightened supplies.  Crop failure in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan were attributed as triggers of the 2008 food crisis when Russia put export controls on its production to preserve local food security.


Food Loss & Waste

The FAO’s latest report on food loss and waste has stated that about 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, which amounts to roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption.  According to the report, food losses occur as a result of inefficiencies in food production and processing operations that diminish supplies. Food waste, by contrast, is when retailers and consumers throw edible food in the trash.  Consumers in rich nations waste a combined 222 million tons a year, according to the report. That’s almost as much as all the food produced in sub-Saharan Africa.

Rich & Poor divide

It cannot be ignored that the in-equality in distribution of wealth, between rich and poor within a country and between countries, is also a contributor to the millions of people living under mal-nutrition.  This is especially true in low-income countries where corruption by the ruling elites takes undue toll on the otherwise healthy national resources causing increased poverty.   The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are a reflection of this divide.

Over-Eating, “Gluttony”

The World Health Organization has declared obesity as an epidemic. According to the International Association for the Study of Obesity, Adult obesity is now more common globally than under-nutrition, and is the third biggest cause of premature death and disability in the affluent world after smoking and high blood pressure.  Also, “gluttony” or excessive eating and indulgence in un-healthy food is a social values based issue for which both consumers and marketers in societies have to reflect upon.


This Research Brief is part of DinarStandard Advisory teams OIC market growth strategy analysisContact its experts here.

Ajmal Perfumes: From Humble Scents to an Emerging Brand

The art of perfumery is an ancient one, born out of human desire to create a good feeling and pleasant environment.  Perfumes are an epitome of refinement, a pleasing personality, and have significant impacts on the body and mind.  They also have a special place in the Islamic and Arab heritage.

With nearly 60 years of heritage and expertise in the fragrance industry, Ajmal Perfumes, a family-owned fragrance house of India, whose name means “most beautiful” in Arabic, is a shining example of dedication to the art of perfumery.

Today, Ajmal Perfumes is regarded as a Top 40 Arab Brand with its presence in the MENA markets (Forbes Arabia.)  It has established a formidable global presence with over 200 exclusive retail outlets spread across 20 countries, and 500 dealerships across the globe. Its business presence is in over 32 countries with an annual turnover of USD200 million and is run by the second and third generation Ajmal family, a household name in India and the Middle East.

Image source:  Ajmal Perfumes website

An Entrepreneur with humble beginnings

The story of Ajmal Perfumes began in the early 1950s, in the verdant foothills of the mountains of Assam, India. In a village called Hojai in the Nagaon district of Assam, Ajmal Ali Haji Abdul Majid began a modest trade house in the lucrative Dhahanul Oudh oil derived from the essence of Agar wood (Aquilaria) trees. Oudh can take up to 20-40 years to harvest, and one kilogram of oil cost Rs 132,000 (USD 2,950).

In the tradition of great masters, Ajmal Ali left his hometown for Mumbai with 500 rupees and some oudh oil as his starting capital. He worked in a dingy house in Bombay in the early 1950s blending perfumes and trying to find the right mixture that would impress the many Arab traders who visited India’s Western shores. In 1964, he gave his family name to his product range. He shifted his operation base from Bombay to Dubai in 1976, where he opened the first Ajmal outlet and launched its first fragrance, “Mukhallat.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Ajmal Ali’s five sons have distributed the work amongst themselves. They are, in UAE: Amiruddin, CEO of Ajmal Perfumes; Fakhruddin, CEO of Ajmal Real Estate; Nazir; COO of Ajmal Perfumes. In India, Badruddin and Sirajuddin look after the India operations.

“Through decades of continuous research and experience in the art and technique of extracting pure oils from natural substances, Ajmal has became synonymous with high quality traditional Arabic and oriental fragrance products”, says Mr. Sirajuddin Ajmal, India’s Head and one of Directors for the Ajmal Group.

Modern Operations

Today, Ajmal Perfumes has the largest private plantation of Agar wood in Asia, owning more than a lakh

Perfumes & Islamic Heritage

  • In Islamic culture, the use of perfume has been documented as far back as the 6th century and its use is considered a religious practice.
  • Eggs and floral perfumes were brought to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries from Arabia, through trade with the Islamic world. There are records of the Pepperers Guild of London, going back to 1179; which show them trading with Muslims in spices, perfume ingredients and dyes.
  • Two talented Arabian chemists: Jābir ibn Hayyān (Geber, born 722, Iraq), and Al-Kindi (Alkindus, born 801, Iraq) established the perfume industry.
  • The Persian scientist, Ibn Sina, introduced the process of extracting oils from flowers by means of distillation, the procedure most commonly used today.

(a unit in the Indian numbering system equivalent to 100,000 units) of agar trees, grown at various locations in Assam. The group has set up its research and development centre, at Hojai, with modern testing facilities for agro-extracts and essential oils. A team of highly dedicated scientists manage the Ajmal R&D Centre and help devise processes for producing value added derivatives, essential oils and herbal products from medicinal and aromatic plants.

Ajmal, employing state-of-the-art technology, has produced an expansive product range to cater to the varying demands of its national and international clientele. Its fast moving consumer products are; Jabtisan, Hayati, Dewaan, Oudha Al Zaid, Mkt Shams, Abhaar, Ottarid, Rijali2001.

Ajmal also boasts a new range of natural fragrances like Dahn al Oudh, Rose, Jasmin, Sandal and Saffron and a special range of economical purchases, like Maryaj. All contain ingredients that appeal to its growing global customers.

Original Packaging & Customer Experience

Ajmal’s packaging design and production division have played catalysts to its success. The designs – both traditional and contemporary – are stunningly original, and are also eco-friendly and recyclable. The high quality of fabrication matches the elegant designs and is particularly appreciated by clients in the Gulf and other parts of the world.

Ajmal’s constant innovation led to the introduction of retail concepts such as “My Inspiration” and “Ajmal Eternal” to enhance the Ajmal shopping experience. This has widely been received and appreciated by fragrance lovers across the Gulf region. According to Forbes Arabia, Ajmal Perfumes is ranked amongst the Top 40 Arab brands.


Ajmal Perfumes recently announced that it has earmarked USD 50 million for international expansion and the retrofitting of its existing GCC network of stores, in line with the concept of “Crafting Memories.”

The company has invested over USD 10 million in a new 150,000 square-foot facility in Dubai that offers a high-tech automated production unit including a research wing.

With a growing network of 137 exclusive retail outlets across the GCC and Asia; ambitious plans that include expansion in London by 2011; and other key metropolisations in the near future, “Ajmal Perfumes has become a globally recognised brand,” says Abdulla Ajmal, Deputy General Manager of Ajmal Perfumes.

Ajmal has an aggressive presence in the Indian perfume market with offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hojai. In the last three years, Ajmal Perfumes has opened up new showrooms in major cities of India. Before the close of 2012, Ajmal Perfumes is planning to make its presence felt in most of the state capitals and semi metro cities of India.

“With the growing demand for fragrance, the Ajmal Perfumes strategy is to utilise its resources mainly for the domestic market, and plans a multiple

marketing and distribution strategy to foray into markets with huge potential,” says Sirajuddin Ajmal, India Head and one of Directors for the Ajmal Group.

“With the middle class is growing rapidly and disposable incomes increasing, the potential is immense. Ajmal’s vision is to be a more globally recognised luxury brand enriching customers’ lifestyles by encouraging creativity, innovation and continual improvements,” he says.

Ajmal Perfumes:  KEY FACTS
Key     offices:……………… Mumbai, India; Dubai, UAE
Main brands: Jabtisan, Hayati, Dewaan, Oudha Al Zaid, Mkt Shams, Abhaar, Ottarid, Rijali2001, Haailah and Baaqa
# of branches: 200 retail outlets across 20 countries, with 20 showrooms in Kuwait, 7 retail shops in Dubai and 3 in Mumbai. Ajmal Perfumes also has 500 distributors worldwide.
# of employees: 7000 employees with 70% originating from Assam, India
Company website: www.ajmalperfumes.info

Doctor in the House: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed

Book Cover. MPH Group Publishing (08-MAR-2011)

Latest released book, “A Doctor in the House,” by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed – fourth Premier of Malaysia – is a surreal read for history buffs, politically-inclined readers and those who enjoy a solidly pleasant book.  It tells the tales of a medical doctor who lived through a myriad of foreign occupations, raised a family, led a nation for 23 years, and had a simmering penchant for business.

Many people know Mahathir for being the Prime Minister of Malaysia with the longest tenure and the one who played an integral rule in placing Malaysia on the world map – but few realize how much of a role he played in creating some of Malaysia’s most important brands and promoting them globally. It can be said that he had more than a thumb in Malaysia’s economic pie – and though “A Doctor in the House” is full of his memoirs as an individual and mostly, a politician, the reader is unable to ignore his viewpoints on emphasizing role of business and technology, marketing them, and ultimately enhancing the Malaysian nation brand.  Indeed, Mahathir became a brand name himself.

Feast or Famine: Entrepreneurial Instincts Kick In

Mahathir’s curiosity in the business and entrepreneurship realm began during the Japanese Occupation, when he was in his impressionable teens. Although the general Malay aspiration of the time was to become a government clerk, and many of his siblings struggled to serve the struggling government under the strict Japanese regime, Mahathir found that his survival instincts of an entrepreneur had played to his benefit. He and some comrades set up a small stall selling food and it was during that time that difficult period of non-subsidies that it was either feast or famine for the local Malaysian. The young entrepreneurs found themselves more successful than their peers who struggled with desk-job employment with the administration. After a few stints in different trades, Mahathir found himself educated on unfair trade (through learning how to short-change the customer). And it was through this experience that he suggested regimented rules on how to eradicate corruptive practices by businessmen later on. His plight – earning money, moving on, experiencing setbacks and becoming successful – strongly represents the journey of many players of the small-medium industries in Malaysia, whereby entrepreneurship is something of the cultural norm amongst locals. In recent years, the government has also launched graduate entrepreneur schemes and have included entrepreneurship degree programmes and elective courses in universities and colleges to enhance the entrepreneurial substance of the country.

Jostling with the British for the Malaysianisation of Companies

Mahathir talks succinctly about the negative effects of colonisation, and like other countries that have been colonised by the British, the grappling for ownership over some important economic sectors were difficult but slowly achieved over the years. Malaysia is richly endowed with many natural resources such as tin, palm oil and rubber. All three sectors represent a substantial segment of growth for the economy. Exports that have been born out of these raw materials include tyres, gloves, food cans, soap and cooking oil. Crude palm oil, in particular, has always been an earmark for economic discussion relating to Malaysia as the country remains the world’s largest producer of the same, warranting its own index on the Malaysian Bourse.

Malaysia, as a rapidly developing nation – one that is set to achieve the developed status in 2020, a Vision also coined by Mahathir – would have never been in the position to formulate such a strategy had Mahathir and his office not grappled for rightful ownership over the corporations that were channelling tax revenue back to Britain.

The Branding of Malaysia

Mahathir’s idea on the branding of Malaysia came very much by the Vision 2020, the perfect vision for anyone to have, according to optometry – his master plan that he had laid out was to have Malaysia placed on the world map through attaining the developed status without forgoing the Eastern ideals and customs. This, through his own vision, would materialise through a major shift in industries.

From Agriculture to Manufacturing and Finally, Services

Developing countries have been known to make an important shift in sectors (as to capitalise on the more effective economic drivers) and Malaysia was not alien to such a change. Although agricultural projects have always been a forte in the economy, and arguably, still is – Mahathir decided to embark on new projects with emphasis on technology.

Ironically, although his memoirs talk about the fear and uncertainty under the Japanese occupation, when Mahathir first assumed office as Prime Minister in the early 80s, one of the first policies he implemented was the Look East Policy for the business infrastructure of Malaysia. The Look East Policy embalmed a strong belief in looking towards Japan for the better foundation of business culture, such as implementing their self-discipline, business policies and organisational behaviour. It is interesting to note that at a time during the Japanese Occupation, Mahathir attended a Japanese-run school, and it was through certain practices such as radio drills, intermittent breathing exercises long distance running in formation, that he found he had the stamina to accomplish his goals. This is probably how he remained in office for so long and how Malaysia pushed forwards to reap revenue from the manufacturing industry and later the services sector.

One of the first manufacturing-based leaps of faith came through the electronic transistor, which led Malaysia to become a major exporter of microchips ad this was when the country began to draw attention on the world map.

Another major project was Proton, the Malaysian national car. Mahathir decided that he did want to see more Malaysians driving cars, but driving Malaysian cars. Proton has definitely faced much criticism over the years due to government policies that continued to protect the “infancy” of the local car manufacturing sector – even after decades of its existence – by imposing oppressive levels of tax upon foreign imports. Consumers argued that this was curtailing their choice in purchasing better quality cars for the sake of saving a government project. And critics insisted that Proton was one of the companies that were meant to fail under a capitalist market – in order for the sector to grow stronger and produce better quality cars for the local market. On the flip side though, supporters of the shift to the Heavy Industries sector insist the change was a positive one as it propelled Malaysia from being an agro-dependent economy and forced a change in mindset on how to utilise technology to build locally-owned products, and in the case of Proton, the national car.

Seemingly so, the birth of Proton was set to change the mindset of traditionalist Asians, as Mahathir calls them, those who disliked change as compared to the progressive Europeans, who he perceived as people who “wanted to improve on everything.” So in revving the local engine, Proton was meant to improve attitudes, work practices and culture – alongside improving the Proton models as each new one emerged.

Several other government-led corporations that have been recognised globally as well throughout the Muslim world include Malaysian Airlines, Petronas and Sime Darby, but have also received similar criticisms as to their survival.

Breaking into the Services Sector

The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) was meant to be the launch pad for a paradigm shift in the mindset of Malaysians with respects to ICT, emulating the Silicon Valley in the US. Unbeknown to many though, the MSC was born from the accomplishments of the microchips project and pushed Malaysia forwards into the Information Age with full control over her destiny.

The MSC essentially is one of the mega projects left of Mahathir’s legacy, especially with respects to achieving Vision 2020. Creating a virtually physical corridor from the city centre to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Malaysia’s own F1 Circuit (a project also led by Mahathir), the MSC encompasses a stretch of companies that are strongly affiliated to ICT.

Unfortunately, Mahathir, as much as a founder of many business projects and a marketer of many leading Malaysian brands, was and is a politician to the core. The MSC, he admits himself, hit many stumbling blocks after he stepped down as Premier and although it seems like the private sector in Malaysia has matured in ICT development, a lot of ambiguity still rests with the real progress of the industry, mostly due to the lack of governmental support.

Memoirs of Mahathir

Mahathir is recognised as a brand name across the Muslim world with Malaysia being known to be a progressive Muslim-populated country. It can be said that most modernisation came from the fourth premier who was always forward-looking in wanting to achieve goals for the country. His personal account of how he came to be a government servant, the Prime Minister of Malaysia and his life afterwards (in line with his personal beliefs he has abided by) is a must-read for any person who is inclined to learn about the country or the man himself.