Majlis is an Arabic term that refers to an assembly for dialogue. The unit will be led by Yusuf Hatia (pictured), who is also managing director of client services for Fleishman-Hillard in India, and draw on senior consultants with backgrounds in Islamic markets as well as those with other relevant skills such as crisis communications expertise. Services will range from listening audits and workshops to issues management and reputation building, according to a statement from the agency.
Hatia said that the decision to launch a formal division to focus on the Islamic market was prompted by the growing opportunities—and challenges—faced by clients around the world. He indicated that the main sectors that were likely to benefit from it initially would be finance, food and pharmaceuticals.
As an example, Hatia cited recent work for a pharmaceutical client in the US that needed clarification on its standing within the Islamic legal framework and advice on communicating its Halal-certified products to potential consumers. He added that with Islamic banking entering the mainstream, there would also be a need to communicate unfamiliar practices clearly to non-Muslims. In the food sector, he noted that many companies already offered Halal produce, but had failed to communicate the fact effectively.
“There is huge potential to target a whole new market without doing much [if anything] to their products,” Hatia said. “People want to know the origin of their food.”
He added that the wider public was still coming to grips with the concept of Halal, meaning there was a strong need for education. A common misconception, he said, was that it related solely to food. In markets such as the US and UK, labeling mass market produce as Halal with insufficient communications had also resulted in a backlash from non-Muslim consumers. Where companies like Nestlé are relatively clear about the scale of their Halal business, others are just “testing the water,” he said.
“If you introduce a new concept and don’t tell people about it, there’s going to be reluctance to take it on board.”
The launch of the practice by Fleishman-Hillard follows the establishment of an Islamic branding practice by Ogilvy in 2010, Ogilvy Noor.
The Muslim market is a major growth area for multinational consumer companies. Nearly 20 per cent of the world’s population (1.8 billion) is Muslim, and around half of that is under 25 years old.