With the introduction of the global economy, industries across continents engaged in trade, which brought out the need to manufacture products that cater to market specific requirements. The application of science and technology to the food production brought remarkable efficiencies to the table and created a competitive edge for industry practitioners to create consumables that were unique and affordable.
The new-age discoveries required checks and balances that would aid in safeguarding the consumer from malpractices by producers, hence the introduction of food-based certification originated. With globalization, a prerequisite for manufacturers that intended to cater to markets specific to OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) based countries, were the products that conform to the Islamic dietary laws.
Halal assurance in the Food & Beverage space, first associated with Meat, had subsequently evolved to a process of certification, whereby providing the discerning consumer an assurance that products manufactured were void of dead animals, poisonous/harmful substances, blood based derivatives, pig based products, carnivorous animals, alcohol, reptiles, rodents, insects, human body parts, to name a few.
Established in 2014, Halal Accreditation Council Limited (HAC) is a non-profit organization formed purely on a need basis, under the Companies’ Act No. 7 of 2007. It is the only certification body in Sri Lanka, offering Halal compliance certification to a wide range of industries including FMCG and Healthcare to name a few.
With the right people performing designated functions, HAC dedicates its success and longevity to its core team. Team HAC consists of forty individuals, which include professionals, food scientists, and theologians, qualified from the leading Universities in Sri Lanka and across the globe. The company’s team of Halal & Technical auditors has also been recognized by the accreditation authorities for having the requisite set of competencies.
The Hardship Story
During the last quarter of 2013, Halal in Sri Lanka was portrayed with negativity for political gains. This abruptly caused a halt to the issuance of the Halal certification and in turn a subsequent closure to the previous certification body. Without certification, exports to markets that required Halal were hampered. This vacuum, in turn, caused clients to appeal for the continuation of Halal Certification in Sri Lanka. Acknowledging this dire need of the industry, the think tank including prominent businessmen, lawyers, professionals, theologians, and industry luminaries formed Halal Accreditation Council, which became operational since January 2014.
Given the status quo at that time, the HAC leadership and staff faced multiple hardships caused by anti-halal elements that were determined to stop Halal certification. Having to begin from scratch with a seed capital that would last for 3 months only, with zero revenue and predetermined fixed costs was indeed a Herculean challenge to any startup.
HAC had to deal with inadequate official recognition by the Government and prevalence of anti-Halal sentiments prevalent in the public due to negative publicity. Also, reluctance of institutions to be associated with Halal certification for fear of being classed as Halal supportive was a significant challenge. Converting these challenges into opportunities, the company has successfully rolled out services with impeccable novelty. With the grace of Almighty, HAC’s leadership, patience, perseverance, determination, and will power has transformed it as a one-of-its-kind brand in its sector. Today, the company has a client base of 220, including multinational companies, where the clientele efficaciously produces over 6,200 Halal certified products.
The Future Leadership
Aakif A. Wahab is the Head of Branding and Business Development at the Halal Accreditation Council. He has completed his BSc. (Hons) in Business Management from the University of Wales, Cardiff and is also a Certified Gemologist, D. Gem (SL) from the Gemologists Association of Sri Lanka. He has been commissioned with the task of driving the company towards growth and sustainability. Under his aegis, the company ensures that the short-term and long-term objectives set out by the management are being met on time.
Aakif has a decade of experience in the corporate space, which includes six years in the MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Conference, and Exhibition) industry, revolving around Islamic Lifestyle namely: Finance, Muslim Friendly Tourism, Halal F&B, and Fashion.
More about HAC
Providing mentoring, empowerment, and succession planning is what best describes HAC
The company encourages its staff to actively participate in team building, whereby they are able to voice their opinion and actively engage in the development of the system. Employees are nominated to take on leadership irrespective of their job positions in the management hierarchy. HAC also encourages this ethos in official projects, sports, and activities related to social welfare.
Despite trying times, in a span of five years since incorporation, the company obtained noteworthy certifications and accreditations including ISO 9001:2015 (Super Large Scale Integration), ISO 27001:2013 (Bureau Veritas Certification) and the GCC Accreditation Centre (GAC) in accordance with ISO/IEC 17065:2012, for “Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies certifying products, process and services”, and GSO 2055-2:2015, “Halal Food – part 2 – Requirements for Halal certification bodies.”
Company’s Take of Halal Certification
Industries will continue to see an upward shift towards the growing need for Halal certified products. Based on an independent research commissioned by the HAC, export earnings to Sri Lanka, through Halal certification amounted to USD 1.6 Billion (Est Avg. 2012 – 2017). Exports are a key driver of an economy and Halal certification can be deemed as an enabler for clients to access this growing segment, whilst indirectly contributing to the National Export agenda.
Guiding the Young Minds
For running any business, integrity and trustworthiness is a mandatory competence one must possess. As such, HAC advises the beginners to eliminate the shortcuts and develop a business plan driven by perseverance and commitment. Also, one should be willing to take on challenges, then assess and evaluate all the options comprising business sustainability, profitability, and market requirements.
A Bigger Picture
The future is full of opportunities, where the Certification bodies would embrace and adopt the concept of Digitalization. The usage of IoT and Blockchain to aid in traceability of raw materials used in the products, with a farm-to-fork approach would revolutionize the F&B space. Apart from this, Progression of Disintermediation – with the rapid development of E-Commerce, access to Halal certified products would be made possible irrespective of geographic location.
With sheer determination and unified efforts, HAC will continue to be a key facilitator for driving Sri Lanka exports, in the F&B space, specific for exports to discerning markets across the globe.