VI International Moscow Halal Expo Exhibition will take place in Moscow on 21–23 May, 2015. Over the last few years this event has become the largest platform for halal business development in Russia and former Soviet republics. This diversified exhibition is always attended by leading domestic and foreign manufacturers who produce goods in compliance with Islamic principles. This event lets everyone (regardless of religious affiliation) discover something interesting, be it clothes, beauty products, food, education, recreation, finance or investment.
Madina Kalimullina, Director of the exhibition and Head of Economics Department of the Russia Muftis Council, gave further details to the “Medina” centre.
– How many companies will participate in the Moscow Halal Expo-2015 exhibition? What regions will be represented?
– The number of participants for this year has grown; about 200 companies from Russian regions, as well as the CIS and non-CIS countries, are expected to take part in the event. Specifically, we are planning to receive a considerable number of companies from Iran, Malaysia, UAE and Turkey.
Companies from Europe and the CIS countries will also participate in the exhibition. It is also the first time that Croatian companies are joining the event.
This exhibition will specifically focus on business development (B2B segment). Whereas the majority of participating companies used to target ultimate consumers, their main objective now is to develop their business, to find new ways and solutions for their business expansion.
The exhibition’s business programme will be prepared specially for business. Investment sector will be given special attention, because Russia is in dire need of financial partners. Among the exhibition’s participants will be finance and investment companies involved in Islamic investment. Currently there are investment projects being developed that might be of potential interest for foreign investors. We are also working with Russian investment companies that are ready to work according to Islamic financial principles.
The growing sector of halal tourism and hospitality have also attracted the visitors’ attention. It is known that one hotel in Moscow (“Aerostar”) has recently become the first hotel to receive the halal certificate. The exhibition will refer both to domestic and international tourism. Companies from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Tatarstan, the Northern Caucasus (including Chechnya and Dagestan) will present their projects. As for international tourism, we are currently negotiating the participation of companies from the UAE, Turkey and Morocco.
The Fashion Forum, which represents one of the fast-growing sectors of the halal market, is another important element of the exhibition. The emphasis will also be put on business expansion — from brand creation to reaching stable development, and relevant workshops will be organized. The business programme might also include the questions of franchising and export to Arabic countries. In the course of the Fashion Forum we will actively promote our designers at the European and Middle Eastern markets. Apart from Muslim clothes, the visitors will find organic cosmetics, perfumes and body care products.
– What can Russian companies supply to Islamic countries, namely to the Middle East?
– There are companies that already supply red and black caviar and fish. Apart from that, Russian poultry producers have already started to supply their products to Middle East. These companies have a halal certificate recognized by the UAE authorities. An agreement with the Ministry of Environment and Water of the UAE has been signed. This institution controls the import of goods from abroad.
– What sectors of the Russian economy spark the greatest interest among the investors from Islamic countries?
– The main area of interest is Islamic finance and Islamic funding. Moreover, now we consider not only the banking sector, because although the law is in the pipeline, it is still a slow process. The investors are also interested in the activity of existing microfinance companies and finance houses that offer a high rate of return for investors. Apart from that, they are interested in oil and gas industry, logistics, construction of shopping and business centres and animal production (slaughter, processing and export). Thus, it implies investment into agricultural clusters and further exporting of the products to other countries.
– You are a member of an expert group that works on creating favourable conditions for opening Islamic banks in Russia. Two bills related to this subject have been introduced to the State Duma. What is the current stage of this process?
– Now these projects are considered primary and are supposed to set the process in motion. Currently we see an interchange of views, involving Russian organizations that address this issue. We are also planning to invite the representatives of foreign banks, as they can make an important contribution. The development of Islamic financial system in Russia requires amendments both in banking and non-banking spheres. Some Russian Islamic financial companies, such as Amal, La-Riba Finans, Masraf finance house, TMIK (Tatarstan International Investment Company), ELK (Eurasian Leasing Company) are already operating, essentially existing beyond banking legislation. However, they are subject to extra tax burden in certain activities, such as murabaha transactions. The proposed draft bill implies exemption from this additional tax, providing a level playing field.
As for the banking sphere, things are more complicated here, it is not always easy to make amendments in the banking legislation. The Central Bank of Russia is not opposed to Islamic banking, as long as it operates in compliance with existing legal framework. Naturally, it is impossible to work in full force and effect in such conditions. We are sounding out the opinions of different parties, encourage the dialogue in order to develop the market and also to make sure the amendments to the legislation will not have negative consequences.
It was also said that if Russia wants to work with Arabic Islamic banks, it should bear in mind that the only comprehensible scheme allowing them to enter the market is a law with clear objectives for Islamic banking.
We put our trust in Allah. We hope that this process will advance in an efficient way, because the main thing is the awareness of the initiators of this process, namely the State Duma Committee on Financial Market, which has quite a serious attitude. There is an understanding on why it is needed and how it will work. At the same time it should be remembered that this process might linger, as we need to take into account the interests of a large number of market players. We need to consider the experience of already working companies and the attitude of Muslims who should openly announce the need in a financing system conforming to Shariah standards. The more such requests banks get, the more interested they will become in participating in this work.
– What question will be addressed during the conference on Islamic finance, which will take place in the course of the exhibition?
– There will be three main question pools. Firstly, it is the experience and challenges of Islamic financial organizations in Russia. As I said, there are non-banking companies and a number of banks claiming that the transactions are being carried out within the scope of existing opportunities. These banks will be represented at the exhibition.
The second question pool regards private equity funds as a means of attracting investment in Russian economy outside the banking sector. There will also be another pool including an investment session, meetings with investment projects’ managers and investing companies’ representatives.
– Each Moscow Halal Expo has a distinguishing feature. One of the most memorable novelties over the past few years was a cooking show appreciated by many. Have you prepared anything special for this time?
– Since our exhibition is multisectoral, each sector conducts a range of events. Last year we held the Tourism Forum for the first time. Nowadays it is a steadily growing market, representing a whole industry of the halal market. The special feature is introducing the B2B segment. We are digging into the market’s problems. In particular, the exhibition will present children’s products, new services, new opportunities both in terms of business projects and projects for the community. Potential partners, buyers and direct consumers will have a chance to learn about the children-friendly halal market and about relevant goods and services. There will be presentations of baby food, educational courses, nurseries and different teaching methods used in the Russian regions. Educational sector represents a separate segment of the exhibition.
Throughout all three days of the exhibition there will be workshops targeting the participants as well as young businessmen who would like to expand their business within the frames of the halal standards and the demands of the modern market.
This year the exhibition and the halal theme have attracted the interest of national media holdings and large publishing houses, such as “Argumenty i fakty”, “Bankovskoye delo”, “Afisha” and some others. We hope that our collaboration will attract new audience that will spur and redefine the halal market development.
Translated by Natalya Ergen for MuslimEco