To most people, when it comes to Halal, they only think about whether the food is halal to eat. One Pizza chain brand based in Pakistan has taken one step further. They endeavor to ensure that their entire process, from food supplies to food preparation to marketing and the restaurant environment is shariah compliant.
The first question that comes to mind is, would such a business that lets Islam dictates everything from operation to even marketing, thrive in today’s world. The figures speak for themselves, NY212 Pizza is a multi-million dollar brand and going global
I spoke with Ahmed Asad, co-founder, and partner of NY212 Pizza, Pakistan, to find out his approach to ensuring Halal in his pizza chain. His pizza chain currently has six stores in Lahore, and they are expanding with a new store opening every three months.
If you bump into Ahmed Asad on the street, never in your wildest dream that you thought that he is an owner of a multi-million dollar business. He dresses and carries the resemblance of the late Junaid Jamshed who is anointed as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. With an enviable beard, turban, and the attire of Mullah, he does not look anything like a typical start-up founder. Yet, he is a business graduate from the top business in Pakistan LUMS.
His answer about his fashion choice was “My appearance is because I love the most influential man that ever lived, our Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. This is a man that walks the talk. But he was not always like this, a look at his photo before he become serious about Islam showed an appearance of a rock star.”
But his transformation began when he got a chance to travel with very knowledgeable and religious people who influenced him greatly. That brought about the transformation which, makes him implement Islam in every facet of his life including when it comes to generating income.
As a result of this sincerity what started as a side hustle is now a multi-million dollar brand NY212 that is branching out of Pakistan to the Middle East, London and Malaysia.
Ahmed Asad explained his halal journey for his pizza chain by saying, “In Pakistan, consumers are not too concerned about Halal certification, as it is something that is almost taken for granted. They expect everything to be halal in a Muslim country and demand that the food is halal.
However being in the food business we know this may not be always the case, it is in our interest to ensure that what we serve is 100 percent halal. This is important because it will avoid our income to be polluted. “
“When we talk about halal, we need to check the ingredients, and for the business to succeed, it needs to be 100 percent shariah-compliant. Every ingredient has its own halal certification that we checked by hiring third-party auditors and scholars.”
“When we first started, it took ages because some of the ingredients were not traceable for their halal-ness. So for the product ingredients which were not traceable, we had to eliminate them from our product line. We also had to request for the manufacturer to provide halal certification for their food products in order to provide us with the halal traceability.”
“Only when we were able to get every food item to be traceable, then only we get it certified.”
“Then it becomes a point that it has to be checked every six months or every quarterly.”
So once Asad has solved the assurance for the halal ingredients, he went on to tackle other aspects of the business for shariah compliance, from the way they serve the customers, to the marketing aspects, to the ambiance of the restaurants.
“For example, we want to make sure that we don’t have pictures of women while designing our marketing campaign, or play music in our restaurants.”
“We also hired a shariah-compliant auditor for our business to ensure that the business is entirely shariah-compliant.”
“The need for 100 percent halal or 100 shariah-compliant, is not for the purpose of the brand’s unique selling point, but as a responsibility on my shoulders as the co-founder and the breadwinner for my family and 150 employees that work for us. “
Ahmed Asad began by explaining that NY212 Pizza values are based on Halal and hygiene, and aims to redefine the industry by granting free food to the poor and needy people. “We do this every Friday where we serve the poor by serving them free lunch.
If any of the partners, such as myself, are in the store we try to make our customers our guests. This happens when we select any table at random and instead of sending them the bill we will send them a note that says “You are our guest today, please accept our hospitality”
Asad further explained his practice by saying, “This is based on Rasulullah s.a.w who encouraged us Muslims to feed the guests and the strangers.”
Asad shared that Pakistan has a large appetite for international chains of fast-food restaurants. International fast-food chains such as KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Hardees, Papa John’s, Dominoes and others have set foot firmly in Pakistan. Pakistan is the world’s eighth-largest market size for fast food and it is expected to grow further at a 20% growth rate.
He saw this as an opportunity to create his own brand for the country’s growing appetite for international fast-food chains. He further adds that this is an opportunity for the country to save on paying international brands with capital outflows when local companies can compete with them by providing consumers with better-tasting food, and creating domestic income.
Ahmed Asad is committed to ensuring that NY212 is shariah-compliant at every step of its growth. As a Muslim according to him. there is no point in makin tons of money but there are no blessings in it. Ultimately, our rizq comes from Allah, if we do everything in a manner that pleases Allah, success will come, sometimes in a magnitude that is bigger than we can possibly imagine.
This is the only explanation that why NY212 is flourishing despite competing with a gigantic marketing budget. It is operating on a different value system where Islam is at the core of its operation. Most importantly, it solves a very important pain point, especially in Muslim majority countries, which is the need for a halal brand that Muslims can actually trust.
Anyone who is interested to partner with NY212 can reach out to the founder on Linkedin here
Shahfizal Musa is the Founder and Managing Editor of Halalop. He graduated with a Law degree from Thames Valley University London. He is an award-winning journalist covering topics such as human trafficking, Muslim research discoveries, and exceptional Muslims.
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