Islamic Mobile Phone

Islamic Mobile Phone Signals Emergence of Muslim Lifestyle Market™

The Ilkone i800 looks to tap into an
estimated 500 million strong market

By Rafi-uddin Shikoh,
Posted, January 3rd, 2005


Ahmed and Aa’isha are two Jordanian Muslims who have recently completed their college education and are starting exciting professional careers. Ahmed is a creative director with a leading advertising agency and Aa’isha is a writer for a women’s magazine; both are addicted to their emails, have an active social life, enjoy eating out, like to dress trendy, and consider their mobile phones their lifeline.

At the same time, they also take pride in their faith as Muslims and strive to incorporate basic Islamic tenets into their busy, progressive lives.

Ahmed and Aa’isha represent a consumer Muslim Lifestyle Market™ that Dinar Standard roughly estimates to be 500 million strong and ripe for innovative solutions. A plethora of products and services are already emerging to serve this market such as Muslim matrimonial websites, Shariah-compliant investing services, modest and fashionable clothing lines, Muslim community networking websites, high-tech Islamic education and reference tools, children’s products, specialized travel services, media, and so on.

Ilkone i800: The Smart New Islamic Mobile Phone

Among those who have started to recognize this market’s strength is an innovative Dubai based Company, Ilkone Mobile Telecommunication, which manufactures and markets a series of niche products for special-interest market segments (the name ‘ilkone’ derives from the Arabic word for ‘universe’.) Earlier this year, they launched a smart new Islamic mobile phone, the ilkone i800, which provides specialized features such as establishing Qibla direction (towards the Ka’bah at Mecca, that Muslims face to pray) from anywhere in the world, giving full text of the Holy Qur’an with English translations (approved by the scholars of Al-Azhar in Egypt), and automatic precise prayer timing anywhere in the world with Azan (call to prayers). Other innovative ilkone features planned for future release includes a step-by-step guide for Hajj and Ummrah, including a personalized process tracker.

Ilkone i800 is specially designed to serve Muslims all across the world to address their needs, and add value to their spiritual self being.”
Mr. Saqer Tellawi, CEO of Ilkone at the GCC Product Launch

Saqer Tellawi, CEO of Ilkone says, “Consumers nowadays view mobile phones as devices which can add value to their self-being and inner feelings rather than just a simple communication tool. Ilkone i800 is specially designed to serve Muslims all across the world to address their needs, and add value to their spiritual self being.”

According to Mr. Tellawi, the phone is also one of the most advanced mobile phones on the market with GPRS Class 12, giving users the fastest Internet connection anywhere in the world (Nokia offers Class 8 – Samsung, Class 4.) Other added features include games, calendar, and contact directory. According to Mr. Tellawi, it is also the first mobile phone with 16 MB Memory used to accommodate the full Qur’anic text with translation and is waiting for Intel to release bigger size memory chips to further increase the variety of content and applications on offer.

The Ilkone i800 hopes to tap into consumers such as Ahmed and Aa’isha who, as progressive Muslims, are technically savvy and want to use new tools and services to support their lifestyle needs, including new means to practice their faith fully.

But, is this really a legitimately large market segment?

For ilkone i800, Mr Tellawi sees the market size based on total number of telecommunication lines available in the Muslim world, which he says stands at 700 million currently. Mr. Tellawi intends to capture 1% of this market and is betting on it with a planned production of 1 million units of the ilkone i800 in its first year.

In addition, he sees tremendous growth in the mobile phone market especially in the GCC countries, which is set to grow by 40% annually. “The tremendous increase in the number of potential first-time users as well as those who keep abreast of latest phone technology and frequently upgrade their phone models is one of the main reasons for the projected growth,” Mr. Tellawi adds.

In terms of the broader size of the Muslim Lifestyle Market™, we are not aware of any real research or behavioral analysis that exists today.

However, we do know that there are an estimated 1.48 billion Muslims worldwide who account for more than 20% of the world population with varied levels of consumer buying power. (See http://www.islamicpopulation.com/).

Seeking some indicator that would show the percentage of the Muslim population with an interest in Muslim Lifestyle Market™‘ products, we came across a few studies that estimate the percentage of Muslims in a community attending or associated with mosques (in U.S. and U.K, studies show an average of 35% of Muslims from the Muslim community attend or are associated with a Mosque). Accepting this is a good indicator, and assuming that this percentage may be higher in countries with a Muslim majority, we can conclude that the market size of Muslim Lifestyle Market™ products and services is at least 500 million strong. Ofcourse further segmentation based on demographics such as gender (women’s clothing), or age (children products) reduces this market size for those offerings. However, this is a good rough estimate of the overall Muslim products market.

Even with the non-scientific nature of these rough estimates, the large number of innovative solutions that are already emerging to serve this market is further evidence to this growing market segment. The following are only a few solution categories servicing the Muslim Lifestyle Market™ today:

Ilkone i800 – Marketing Challenges and Opportunities of an Islamic Product:

Ilkone comprises an international consortium of partners from the UAE, Egypt, England, Australia, and South Korea. Mr. Tellawi, a Palestinian who is an experienced Telecommunication professional, was the man behind the idea and led a 2 ½ year R&D effort to develop the phone with the most relevant, best technology, and highest quality Muslim features.

The product was first introduced at the leading High-tech convention in the Middle East called Gitex in 2003, but had its first real market roll-out in Lebanon in April 2004. This was followed by a major push in the Gulf Countries this past Ramadan.

The long lapse between GITEX and the actual first launch was primarily due to the process of getting an official approval from a recognized Islamic body (Al-Azhar in Cairo) to approve the copy of the Quran on the phone.

Mr. Tellawi says, “We not only have to deal with technological challenges in rolling out in new markets but also the Islamic Governing bodies, usually separately for some countries.” For example, it’s been six months since they filed for an approval request in Malaysia. They are hoping to get it by end of this month.

The mobile is currently rolled out in the GCC only. Mr. Tellawi cites that, “With an overall mobile phone size of 7 million, the response so far has been very encouraging.” The Company is looking to be in most markets by mid-2005 including Europe, US and Canada.

One of the other challenges has been finding quality partners to represent the product in each country. Ilkone looks for a partner on an exclusive basis to not only market, but service the customers also. Mr Tellawi gives an example of this challenge by citing a recent launch failure in Pakistan which he primarily attributes to partner issues. But Mr. Tellawi is sure he’ll be back there soon. Ilkone is currently seeking partners in many countries including the U.S.

A market up for grabs

In conclusion, the Ilkone i800 is an innovative product that, with some careful planning, execution and aggressive branding, is set to benefit from the needs of a huge Muslim Lifestyle Market™ segment.

As for the overall opportunities that this market provides, the emerging solutions are only beginning to scratch the surface. This can be assessed given the large market size and the limited sets of available offerings. Even with those that are out there, much consolidation is needed to gain efficiencies and build OIC region wide brands.

In this months DS100 ranking analysis, Management Consultant Aamir Rehman suggests that one of the greatest opportunities for OIC based businesses is to build cross-OIC brands focusing on the service sector. The Muslim Lifestyle Market™ offerings are perfectly positioned for this taking.

Key Learnings:
Ilkone i800 is an innovative mobile phone solution specially designed to serve Muslims all across the world. Other offerings targeting ‘Muslim Lifestyle’ include halal investing services, halal food, ‘ethical’ colas, children toys, educational materials etc.
‘Muslim Lifestyle’ market, estimated to be 500 million strong. The market is ripe for innovation.
A key challenge for certain ‘Muslim Lifestyle’ products is getting approval of recognized regional and national religious bodies

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