A trait most entrepreneurs share is the courage to challenge assumptions. Often this is key to unlocking the ideas required to create innovative solutions.
For example, you’d probably assume that Muslim diners would have no trouble finding a place to eat out in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, like Singapore and London – after all, the global halal food market is reportedly worth USD 1.1 trillion and is set to grow to a staggering USD 10 trillion by 2030.
An observation on dietary restrictions led Singapore Management University alumna Siddika Jaffer and her team to challenge this assumption about the dining habits of Muslims, and launch the Halal Dining Club – a website and app aimed at transforming the dining experience for this huge and underserved market.
Siddika shares how her experience in the Master of Science in Innovation (MI) programme helped her grow exponentially as an entrepreneur.
I am Siddika Jaffer, the founder of Halal Dining Club, a seed-stage Food Technology company with a vision to become the global go-to platform for halal dining. My partners and I started building a mobile app in 2015 for consumers who find it hard to find halal dining options at home and when they travel. We endeavor to provide an engaging and rewarding app experience that provides a comprehensive, well-curated list of halal options.
Although there is a common perception that true entrepreneurs do not need a classroom education to be successful, the opportunities and benefits that I gained from the Master of Science in Innovation (MI) programme trumps the conventional approach of “just doing it”.
When I joined the MI programme in July 2014, my objectives were to learn new tools and processes around innovation that I could apply to my new business ideas, and to build a network of like-minded entrepreneurs. On both counts, I have managed to achieve my objectives.
The way the programme is structured complemented my entrepreneurial spirit. It gave me opportunities to really explore and validate my ideas quickly and effectively. The ability to gain input from my professors at SMU, as well as from guest lecturers and fellow classmates, has been invaluable.
Furthermore, as an expat in Singapore, my network here used to be fairly limited. But within a month into the programme, I gained numerous invaluable contacts and met some of my most cherished friends today. I had the opportunity to network with and learn from veteran entrepreneurs in the Singapore ecosystem such as Darius Cheung of 99.co and Eddie Chau, serial entrepreneur and founder of e-Cop, Brandtology and V-Key. And it was through working on a group project with Salman Sardar and Maya Sofhiana, that I found in them team members for the Halal Dining Club.
The MI programme played a major role in the founding of the Halal Dining Club. In applying the Design Thinking methodology and the Lean Canvas approach taught, we were able to identify the major pain points that were not adequately addressed in the market. Specifically, we discovered that halal dining consumers face a massive problem on a daily basis when they live in or travel to countries where halal food options are hard to find.
Using the programme capstone project as a launch pad for the Halal Dining Club, we transformed it into a real-world venture with guidance from our professors at SMU.
Reflecting on my journey of entrepreneurship, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt has been to seize every opportunity as it presents itself. While anyone can browse through the plethora of Twitter links, YouTube videos and blog posts by entrepreneurs and academics to learn about the theory of developing a successful business, it has been much more enlightening to learn directly from people who have experienced it first-hand.
Similarly, networking relentlessly has proven to be invaluable. Beyond just building connections, feedback and input from veteran entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have helped me refine the idea tremendously. I relish opportunities to pay it forward in the near future.
Since the completion of our capstone project, my Halal Dining Club partners and I have been working hard to drive the project towards meeting the objectives set. I feel privileged to have had the wonderful support and intellectual stimulation of the MI programme and I now strive to put into practice everything I’ve learned.
*This article originally appeared on the SMU blog, with minor edits by the Edukasyon.ph team.