Interview with Faeez Fadhlillah

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Photo courtesy of Faeez Fadhlillah

Congratulations on being named one of the 30 most outstanding young persons under 30 in the Retail and Ecommerce segment in Asia by Forbes. Why do you think you were selected?
It was indeed a great honour to be named one of the 30 under 30 by Forbes, and I think being recognised on the cover as “a young entrepreneur that is shaping and revolutionising the future of e-commerce” is definitely a testament and recognition of the Muslim travel industry which we are working hard to promote. The Muslim travel market is currently the fastest growing travel market in the world with an average growth of 4.79% which is above the world’s average growth rate of 3.8%. In fact, the global Muslim market is worth $126 Billion, surpassing that of the United States and Germany combined. Our initiative is playing a part in catering for this fast growing group of travellers and we see it as a privilege to do so. There are great initiatives for Muslim travellers out there and we want to be part of this growing ecosystem. Nothing is more fulfilling than being able to provide an amazing travel experience and this inspires us every day to improve our product to make it the best in the market.

Your company, Tripfez.com is a website created to serve the Muslim travellers. Brunei is an Islamic country with an 80% Muslim population. How can our population benefit from your service?
With the launch of Salam Standard during the World Halal Travel Summit in Abu Dhabi, Tripfez incorporates the prestigious standard which was adopted by many international hotel chains, including the Archipelago Hotel Group, Tauzia, Accor, Rotana Hotels, Rixos Hotels, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Anantara Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Villas, Ayla Hotels & Resorts, Ramada Hotels, and many more. This initiative helps Muslim travellers to search for Muslim friendly hotels on Tripfez and offers important information about hotel facilities, which cater to their needs. Additionally the tours and activities section of Tripfez is launched in March during the ITB in Berlin, which aims to further help Muslim travellers to have a halal experience.

According to the MasterCard-Crescent Rating, Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI), Halal Tourism was worth US$145 billion in 2014 and is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2020. Can you give us a perspective of just how lucrative the Halal Tourism market is and why is it a market that is so underserved?
The international travel market surpassed the 1 trillion dollar mark and with the increasing travel trend, we realised there is a growing demand of information on travel destinations and hotel facilities for Muslim travellers. The Muslim travel market is expected to continue to grow within the next decade. We wanted to provide this information in a global setting, to encourage Muslims to travel and to support and make sure that their needs are met while travelling.

One of the reasons why this big market is still underserved is that the products offered in the different destinations are very fragmented and it is hard to find halal travel products in many non-Muslim countries. It is a very tedious and lengthy process to develop the Muslim travel market on a global scale. But by helping people to fulfill their needs during holidays which is usually the best time of the year it is a very rewarding task for us.

“The Muslim market offers huge opportunities and Brunei being the bridge to the larger market of Malaysia and Indonesia provides the perfect platform to venture into the entrepreneurial world.”

– Faeez Fadhlillah

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Travelling as a Muslim can indeed be challenging. What are some of the tips you have for Muslim travellers? Are there “must-go-to” cities and cities that you must avoid?
Travel and the Muslim faith have always been associated with each other. In fact, Muslims have been travelling since Prophet Muhammad’s time with some of the companions travelling to as far as China and the Roman Empire. Our tip for travellers would be, to check out the Salam Standard certificate of hotels first, because this is a sign if the hotel is generally Muslim friendly. We think any hotel which makes any serious attempt to cater to Muslims should be awarded by our community and be chosen with preference over others. Also when you travel, don’t be shy to ask what a destination can offer to a Muslim traveller. There are many non-Muslim countries which take their dedication to Muslim travellers very seriously, like Japan. For the effort they are undertaking, we would surely recommend it as a prime destination for Muslim travellers. Besides this, traditional Muslim-friendly destinations like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei should be high on the list of any Muslim traveller too. And probably one of the very exciting upcoming destinations would be Iran or Central Asia.

How can Brunei’s F&B industry cater better to the Halal Tourism market?
Brunei is a unique country with a huge potential for tourism. In fact, the long history of Brunei and being 80% Muslim makes it an ideal destination for the Halal Tourism Market. Hotels in Brunei can join the Salam Standard initiative, effectively exposing them to the global Halal Tourism market. At the same time, F&B outlets can also increase exposure via Salam Standard.

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By adjusting your perspective to the tourism industry, your company has been able to establish a whole new business opportunity in the Halal market. Innovation often begins by looking at the same situation with a new lens. What are some of your tips on becoming more innovative in a personal and business capacity?
I think that part of the innovative process in business involves changing or creating more effective processes or products which increase productivity, performance and the ability to scale and replicate a standard process into a larger market. Combining it with the existing demand from consumers creates huge opportunity for a business not only to scale but also continuously remain innovative within the organisation.

I think a good exercise for innovation would be to look at daily life situations and see what is challenging us. Take one of those everyday challenges (no matter how simple they might seem) and think about how you can solve it. Talk to other people about it and ask for their opinion too. Nothing can be more helpful in finding innovative solutions, than gathering as many different views as possible. This includes talking to experts in seemingly unrelated fields. Many of our innovative ideas come to light, after talking to non-Muslims for example. To find an innovative approach a problem needs to be looked at from many different angles.

What are your tips for young entrepreneurs in Brunei wanting to tap into the Muslim market of the world?
The Muslim market offers huge opportunities and Brunei being the bridge to the larger market of Malaysia and Indonesia provides the perfect platform to venture into the entrepreneurial world. Brunei and its reputation of being a pioneer in the halal global industry would give entrepreneurs from Brunei a competitive advantage. Every new business venture starts with a dream. But just as important as having a dream, is having self-confidence to act on this dream. This is why we would like to encourage all young current and future entrepreneurs to act on your dreams. It will always be worth it and will be very rewarding to enter the global Muslim market.

For more information visit: http://www.tripfez.com/

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!