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Interview With Rafi-uddin Shikoh


INTERVIEW WITH RAFI-UDDIN SHIKOH

“In its humble journey so far, DinarStandard (DS) has been blessed by tremendous mentorship and support of many people and entities.”

The global Islamic economy has shown a continuum business growth momentum and has reported an estimates of $2.2 trillion spending in 2018 across the food, pharmaceutical and lifestyle sectors that are impacted by Islamic faith-inspired ethical consumption needs. DinarStandard (DS) support to empower business leaders, entrepreneurs, and government officials in highlighting the potential actionable market strategy focused on growing the future of the global Islamic economy.

We interviewed Rafi-uddin Shikoh, a Founder and CEO of DinarStandard (DS), a global research specialized in marketing analytics driven investment strategy advisory firm serving multi-national corporates, and government agencies from across the countries. DinarStandard (DS) specializes in the Halal/Tayyab food, Islamic/Ethical Finance, Halal travel, Islamic NGOs and OIC member country sectors.

Rafi-uddin Shikoh, a visionary leader, focused on driving the confluence of global innovations and prioritized global social impact needs. He has spoken at worldwide conferences and had 1,500 global media exposure from The Economist, CNN, Fortune, and the BBC.

Now let’s hear what he has to says…

1. DinarStandard (DS) has become a household brand for Islamic Economy Reports, Research, Consulting and Advisory. How did your journey start more than 15 years ago?

First of all, and unequivocally - All praise is due to Allah SWT. F16, Nike, and 9-11 and many mentors and supporters have all played a key role in my personal journey to start DinarStandard (DS) in 2004. I had grown up fascinated by F16 fighter planes engineering marvel and as an MBA student in the US, I was fascinated by Nike’s marketing and product development ingeniousness. These fascinations had developed my passion to build innovative brands which I developed the skills for through 10+ years of a professional career with Fortune 500 and boutique consultancies in the US. As an American Muslim immigrant who grew up in the Arabian Gulf region with Pakistani heritage, there was always also an interest in contributing to these developing countries. Then 9-11 happened.

A combination of professional passion to build innovative global brands and reconciling the role of Muslims and Islam in a post 9-11 world became the genesis of DinarStandard (DS) in 2004, as a business magazine focused on Muslim world economies, with two key questions to address:

1) Why aren’t there any global innovations and brands from the ‘Muslim world’ today? (Note: Refer to InterBrands Global 100 Brand ranking). This was true in 2004 and remains to be true today although we see some good momentum in that direction. To benchmark, DinarStandard (DS) released a ranking of Top 100 Companies from the Muslim World (OIC member countries.)

2) If Islamic principles are meant to be great models for global economics with universal principles of equitable financing, conscious capitalism, and sustainable product development principles (as we as Muslims believe in), then where are its practical manifestations today?

2. What entities and which people had influence on shaping DinarStandard (DS) to where it''s today?

Indeed, as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) has said:''Whoever does not thank people (for their favour) has not thanked Allah (properly), Mighty and Glorious is He!"In its humble journey so far, DinarStandard (DS) has been blessed by tremendous mentorship and support of many people and entities.

First and foremost, guidance from Quran and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) Sunnah relating to running a business have had a huge influence in shaping DinarStandard (DS). Our core values of conscientious work (Taqwa), excellence (Ihsan), trust (Amanah), and socio-economic justice (Adil) steer our strategies and day to day activities.

Dr. Aamir Rehman, an innovation and strategy expert, who was a founding director of the Islamic private equity firm Fajr Capital, had become DinarStandard’s (DS) anchor advisor, and remains to be one, as well as being an investor and Board member. Mr. Sajjad Chowdhry joined DinarStandard (DS) as a Co-Founder for the first few years bringing his background in Islamic economics and shaping its early thinking. Mr. Mohammad Kettani has also been a key advisor, an investor, and an active Board member. I am forever grateful for their invaluable partnership.

Mr. Iqbal Khan, the CEO of the dynamic Islamic private equity firm, Fajr Capital had been a major influence in shaping and developing a faith-based values culture for DinarStandard (DS). Fajr Capital also became DS’s first client as the business model pivoted to a management consultancy in 2008. Dr. Rushdi Siddiqui, a pioneer in the Islamic finance space, also became an invaluable advisor and led to DinarStandard’s (DS) initial assignments with Thomson Reuters.

Around 2010, I got acquainted with an incredibly visionary, multi-talented and amazing human being, Dr. Sayd Farook, with whom I collaborated on a research paper that was presented at Harvard University. His belief in DinarStandard’s (DS) vision has shaped much of our development since then. In his capacity as head of Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance team, he introduced DinarStandard (DS) to Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center, bringing DinarStandard’s (DS) Islamic economy expertise to kickstart the Annual State of the Global Islamic Economy Report series as well as strategizing the launch of SalaamGateway.com. Dr. Sayd was also instrumental in supporting DinarStandard’s (DS) government innovation strategy work. We are blessed to today have him join us as a Senior Partner in taking DinarStandard (DS) towards its vision to become a top-tier global growth strategy intelligence and advisory platform.

Another key influencer in DinarStandard’s (DS) journey has been Mr. Abdul Hamid Evans (who passed away in 2018, may Allah SWT grant him high level of Jannah) He was a pioneer in the Halal economy ecosystem and a dear friend and supporter.

Reem El Shafaki has been one of the first and longest serving team members since 2010. Her passion for sustainable businesses and principled approach has tremendously helped strengthen our values-based culture. Dr. Sapta Nirwandar, a charismatic former Vice Minister of Tourism of Indonesia, and chair of Indonesia Halal Lifestyle Center (IHLC) has also been a key partner in developing our work in Indonesia. There have many other key team members, clients, and partners, former and current, and from many countries (especially Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, US, and UK especially) who have all played a key role in shaping DinarStandard’s (DS) development and its global perspective and experiences.

3. Success requires sacrifice, please share with us your, the top 5?

OK, so I will get a bit philosophical here. It’s important to first have clarity on what ‘success’ and ‘sacrifice’ mean. In my limited knowledge, ‘success’ in this world is servitude of Allah SWT through delivering upon all our responsibilities in prayers and deeds to the best of our abilities—including professional pursuits. Also, if ‘sacrifices’ are things, that are dear to us that we must forgo to achieve this ‘success’, then sacrifices are really choices we make in achieving the path to ‘success.’

With above in mind, my top choices in achieving success would be to:
1) forgo the inherent force of one’s ‘ego’ in accepting mistakes and whatever you achieve or don’t;
2) I would repeat #1 again to emphasize its importance;
3) taming one’s greed for constant ‘recognition’ that tramples on other responsibilities and even focused impact driven execution;
4) de-prioritizing things that contribute to overall ‘successes’ (e.g. I de-prioritized watching any sports so that I can utilize that time towards other responsibilities such as spending time with family); and
5) not settling for quick, half-hearted, mediocre outcomes

4. You moved from the US to Dubai, UAE, several years ago, why not other Islamic finance hubs, like Bahrain or Malaysia?

DinarStandard (DS) remains a US registered company. We had established a regional branch office in Dubai in 2015 given accessibility to majority of our client base. In pursuit of the original question of global level innovations from Muslim world, Dubai, UAE stands out as the most innovative place in the region as well its announced vision in 2013 on becoming a leading hub of the global Islamic economy.

5. What are the five lessons that you share on living and working in Dubai?

Dubai is an incredibly vibrant and global city and five lessons living and working in Dubai are:
i. a true center of global business activity (between East Asia and the West);
ii. food is great with probably the biggest assortment of global cuisine that is halal!
iii. from the perspective of the diversity of people, Dubai probably has the biggest mix of demographic of Muslims (Muslim consumer market) represented compared to anywhere in the world;
iv. its super safe, secure, and a high quality of life as well as modern business infrastructure;
v. Dubai is certainly expensive relative many markets, but lower cost options are also available

6. As we look ahead in the post pandemic period, what will be the business model of companies in the Islamic economy? Those that do not adapt, consequences?

In our latest State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, a major theme that stood out was the accelerated digital transformation both as a matter of survival in a post-pandemic period as well as areas of new opportunities from food to finance.

7. Finally, where do you see DinarStandard’s (DS) 5 years from now? Areas of Focus? DinarStandard (DS) Sold? DinarStandard (DS) acquiring for faster tracking growth? Returning to the US?

InShaaAllah, in 5 years we see DinarStandard (DS) as a leading growth strategy intelligence and advisory platform in OIC countries with offices in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, and USA. We plan to remain a US headquartered company

Our functional areas of focus are innovation and growth strategy, marketing strategy and execution, investments strategy and government policy. We intend to focus in areas such as food and agriculture, government, financial institutions, travel and tourism, and lifestyle sectors.

Currently, we are building technology solutions – with SalaamGateway.com; a key digital asset, as well as developing a predictive- analytics intelligence platform called ImpactIntell. Both are being incubated as part of our venture building platform – Goodforec Labs, which we seek to gain investments for our digital propositions and looking to acquire smaller consulting houses in select target markets.

Link to Rafi-uddin Shikoh, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/rafishikoh/.

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