Ronnie Tan, a Muslim convert, had been forced to shutter Singapore's only all halal-certified supermarket last August after claims that the venture, Global Halal Hub, was deep in the red.
But now as vice-president of conglomerate Hao Corp responsible for its Hao Halal Hub retail brand, he hopes to open 100 all-halal groceries in Singapore by 2020.
He says his dream of “bringing food to the ummah [Muslim faithful]” is back on track.
“After Global Halal Hub closed down, I was headhunted to join Hao Mart,” Tan said. "They saw the potential of halal but they just couldn’t get the right person to manage it. I joined them in September as a vice-president, with proven results.”
The closure of the a 10,000 square-foot supermarket had been a painful experience for Tan, who claims to have lost personally close to S$3m (US$2.2m) on the venture.
The new project not only aims to bring halal grocery retail to communities across the island in a way that has not been done before, there are also hopes it will expand overseas and into food manufacturing.
“Moving forward, we aim have 100 halal minimarts or supermarkets everywhere in Singapore—that’s phase one,” said Jupri bin Suep, Hao’s vice-president of operations. “A later phase will see us open a central kitchen for food processing, as well as overseas expansion. We are already starting to plan a facility in Bintan in Indonesia to process our foods.
“What we are seeing is that the global population of Muslims is going to be huge, growing rapidly everywhere in the world. In Singapore and neighbouring countries, they are getting much more well-informed about the benefits and unique quality of halal products and goods.”
Out of Singapore’s population of about 5.7m, the Muslim community already stands at about 1.2m, mostly comprised of ethnic Malays, and this number is growing.
“Based on that strategy, it’s going to be unique in Singapore that there is any retail business where you can go into a shop and see 100 percent halal. It makes us very different to the rest,” Jupri said.
The Hao Halal Hub stores are currently sourcing merchandise from over 40 countries, Tan explains.
“For cooking requirements, you are looking at suppliers from as far afield as Mongolia and Japan to Indonesia and Malaysia, and these are all Singapore’s favourite cooking products,” he said.
“You will not be able to get these at any other outlet that can provide so many varieties that are halal. Curry from India and Malaysia, crackers from Japan and Indonesia—even the big players like Dairy Farmers won’t stock these. Because of this potential we think it is worth putting our strategy into halal and bank on this strong business concept,” he added.