“What is Halal? Not many people know that Malaysia is one of the major exporters of halal F&B and the largest exporter of halal ingredients globally,” begins Dato’ Seri Jamil Bidin, who is the Chief Executive and Managing Director of Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC). “But more importantly, not many understand that it is not just about food.” Halal refers to what is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law. And although it is frequently applied to permissible food and drinks, Jamil states that there is more to the industry despite the religious code it represents.
Jamil also shares that before HDC was formed, Malaysia only focuses on providing the Halal Certification. “A ‘Halal Certified’ stamp on a label is a sign of a trustworthy or genuine product by the Muslim. What’s more, such a stamp may even be required for the export of food to certain Muslim countries,” he points out, adding that to date, Malaysia has 13 halal standards, which not only certify food items as well as food premises, but also cosmetics, personal care, pharmaceuticals and logistics. “And this cements the country’s trailblazing position in the global halal industry.”
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Once upon a time
Jamil started his career as an Accountant with Rothmans of Pall Mall (M) Berhad in 1984 and has over the years, acquired extensive experience in auditing, corporate finance and financial management in various positions in public listed companies. In the year 2002, he was made the Managing Director of Putera Capital Berhad, a main board public listed company with activities in manufacturing, construction, property development and engineering. He then became the Corporate Advisor of KUB Malaysia Berhad, a main board conglomerate with business in information and communication technology, education and training, food beverage and events, energy, property development and construction. “In total, I have more than 30 years involvement in the corporate sector. I have also been appointed on the Board of several companies in various industries such as financial services, government link companies, aviation and aerospace, investment holding company and what not,” he recalls, fondly sharing his passion for risk management.
The Unexpected Journey
When Jamil was first appointed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia in August 2006 to lead HDC, he admits that he didn’t know how to go about his new responsibilities. “HDC is a wholly owned company of Ministry of Finance which was established in late 2006. It was established to develop the industry with a mission of making Malaysia as the global Halal hub. And honestly, there wasn’t much information or projects I can refer to as it was a very new concept back then,” Jamil notes. Instead of sitting around and waiting for something to come up, Jamil took matters into his hands and started to draft a blueprint. “My team and I first designed a framework that we believe can assist its development in the country. Then, we proposed comprehensive and proactive policies to the government in hopes of building a proper halal ecosystem. Today, I’m proud to say that Malaysia is perceived as the global leader.”
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Zero to a Halal hero
Halal in Malaysia is well-regulated by the government with Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) while HDC spearheads the halal regulatory and industry development. “I have to thank the government for its commitment and dedication towards improving and developing the industry. The collaborations among ministries and government agencies are among the key efforts in uplifting our industry to be seen as the leader globally. We even managed to attract a growing number of interests regarding the industry,” Jamil happily informs. “Non-Muslim majority countries like China is preparing itself to become the net importer of halal food and beverages in the next 10 years. And many non-Muslim majority countries, like Japan, United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom, are taking the step to be part of the Halal industry, which is great! Clearly, it is not limited to Muslim-majority countries and you’d be surprised to know that most Islamic countries are not embracing the Halal industry.”
The benefits of sharing
“I get this question a lot, why do I share my knowledge on how to build a proper halal ecosystem. And for me, the answer couldn’t be any simpler. As a corporate leader, the questions are never about whether you have the right skills; it’s whether you have the potential to learn new ones. Having a fixed set of skills is what makes you proficient in a specific area but growth means continuous development. To do that, you have to be permanently connected to what is happening around you and offer your expertise every time you can,” he says, explaining that anyone can learn something from everybody in their life. “Also, by sharing knowledge, it encourages an environment where everybody is encouraged to ask questions. It helps us stay updated with the latest information in our field as well. At the end of the day, if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.”