Sunday November 2, 2008
Designs on Muslim market
By CELESTE FONG
A Chinese businessman is convinced that Malaysia is his springboard into the vast market of the Middle East.
KNOWN as Jerry Ma by his Muslim friends and associates, Li Haihua is convinced that Malaysia is a firm springboard to venture into new investments in the country and also to expand his business to the Middle East.
“Malaysia’s strategic location is one of the many reasons attracting us to set up a factory there. In Malaysia, there are many Chinese (Malaysians) there and it’s easier for us (Chinese nationals) to adapt because we share a similar culture and language,” he told The Star in a recent interview at his company in Shenzhen.
Besides this, he believes Malaysia is also able to lend its religious prestige and widely-recognised standing in its ICT industry in the Muslim world for his Islamic products.
The core business of his Shenzhen DSP Technology Co Ltd is to design, develop, manufacture and sell electronic products such as mobile phones, Quran MP4, Quran pen and other electronic products meant for use by Muslims.
“We do not only design, develop and manufacture Islamic phones but we also have other electronic products to cater to the Muslim world,” he said.
Citing some statistics by world population experts, Li said the world’s Muslim population has reached between 1.5 billion and 1.8 billion. By 2050, he said, the world’s Muslim population would make up a total of 40% of the world population.
“Now Muslims around the world constitute 20% of the world population,” he said.
According to Li, many had approached him to form a joint venture to market his Islamic phones and other electronic products but he had declined them. Then one of his Muslim employees introduced him to Firdous Mok Abdullah and Kamal Koh Abdullah, both Malaysian Muslims, and he decided to work with them.
Kamal, the general manager of Myiman, a business dealing in traditional herbs, is a religious teacher who taught Islamic teachings in Hong Kong for two years several years ago.
In recent years, Li said, many Chinese companies have used Malaysia as a springboard to venture into the market in the Middle East and are doing well.
“We have chosen to work with Myiman Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd to market our Islamic phones,” he said, adding that he hoped to test the Malaysian market for his Islamic phones before selling them to the Middle East.
“Our next move is to jointly open a factory in Malaysia with our Malaysian partner. Our collaboration with Myiman is not only in the Malaysian market but the market of the whole Muslim world.”
Li said they had the know-how in electronics technology while the Malaysian partner had knowledge of Islam and Muslim culture.
“In Saudi Arabia, the Quran is not allowed to be included as text in electronics and its content cannot be used as ring tones. We have to respect their Islamic beliefs,” he said.
Having a Muslim partner in Myiman, Li said, would help bridge the cultural gap.
“We will be able to market our Islamic products to the world and our Muslim partner from Malaysia is able to disseminate Islamic teachings to the world,” he said.
The 31-year-old electronics graduate who hails from Shandong said they hoped to position themselves as the leading Islamic products’ company in the world.
For a start, he said, they hoped to sell between one million and two million Islamic mobile phones.
“In China, the number of mobile phone users has passed 400 million,” Li pointed out.
It has become a highly competitive market here and Li is eyeing expansion in the potentially huge market of the Muslim world. Some of his Islamic products are now available in Indonesia, South Africa, Yemen and Turkey.
“We only launched our Islamic mobile phones with Quran this June, and this July or August in Malaysia.”
On Islamic products, Li said his company had invested two to three years in research and development and an initial amount of three million yuan.
“In the beginning, wo men ye zou le hen duo wan lu (we once wasted our time and energy and followed the wrong direction) because we did not understand Muslim culture and were not aware of their taboo,” he said.
He also voiced his hope that “our Islamic products like the Islamic mobile phones are not only a communication tool for our users but also a learning tool”.
The Islamic mobile phone is designed with Quran recitations by Sheikh Sudais and Shuraim or Muhammad Sedeeq Al-Menshawe or Mishary Rashed al-Efasy and its Arabic script text by Othman font.
Other features of the phone include a complete Quran, Quran translations in 28 languages, Qibla direction and Solat times of major cities in the world.