Solving the world’s pressing needs, of food, water and energy, are high on this tech founder’s list, who is now focused on making renewable energy accessible to everyone.
The name Muhaimin Iqbal is not new to Indonesia, where he has successfully started several tech companies with other cofounders. Prior to venturing into the entrepreneurial world at the age of 45, he had a flourishing career at Pertamina, the Indonesian national petroleum company. His known entrepreneurial success began with GeraiDinar, an online resource on the gold-based Islamic currency dinar. With a degree in agriculture mechanization, the subsequently set up several other agri-based ventures before starting a fintech agribusiness startup. He has also published several books on the topics of Islamic financing.
The success of iGrow Resources
The success of PT iGrow Resources Indonesia has grown by leaps and bounds. iGrow works as a fintech company that finances Indonesian farmers by inviting those with capital to invest in a farming project. For instance, an investor, through an app, can invest in a unit of durian farm, who is promised an ROI of a certain percentage after a period of investment. The premise of iGrow is to help match underemployed farmers with capital that will provide farmers with sustainable incomes, and meet the demand for food sustainability.
Muhaimin co-founded it with his younger tech founders in 2014 and had won funding rounds from 500 Startups and East Ventures in 2016. In 2021, the venture is so successful that it has attracted the attention of the Indonesian government who is interested to roll this out on a larger scale and reach more farmers.
In 2016, iGrow has won a WSA award, based in Austria, which awards digital solutions with a positive impact on society, that helps achieve UN SDG of zero-hunger.
Solving the World’s Pressing Needs
Halalop editor, Shahfizal Musa, spoke with Muhaimin Iqbal, about his successes, his current endeavours, and the Quran.
Accroding to Muhaimin, the world’s pressing needs are the same as that since the creation of Adam s.a.w.
“Whatever problems people think about now which has been revealed in the Quran centuries ago. The Quran talks about food, water and fire, which is energy. These kinds of problems have been identified centuries ago, the solution must be there.”
Muhaimin’s entreprenuerial vision is guided by the Quran. He has set up an Islamic school in Indonesia, that ranges from kindergarten to high school, where he also teaches the meaning of the Quran and how to apply it to daily life.
He went to on to explain, “Allah s.w.t. has sent down the Quran to answer all of the questions. In surah an-Nahl, verse 89, the Quran revealed,
“We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide a Mercy and Glad Tidings to Muslims.”
Tackling Food Security and Food Sustainability
“If Muslims can address the issues of food, water, and energy resources, then we will survive. To process food and water, we need energy”, Muhaimin further explained.
He is concerned about the national food security of Indonesia.
“Food, even food – our traditional food is now imported from the US. Tempe, Tauhu (Tofu), is our traditional Indonesian food, and they now imported. For example, flour, sugar, even our water spring belongs to Danone – we lost our control over our food resources.”
His concern for food sustainability and providing farmers with sustainable income led to the creation of iGrow. The concept of iGrow is similar to the mobile game, Farmville, where investors can invest and pay farmers to grow a certain fruit or vegetable.
“iGrow started ten years ago. Try to find the market for our farmers, and educate them to meet the market demands, in terms of quality, quantity and continuity.”
“The financier is willing to finance the farmers. Now, we channel every day the financing channel about Rupiahs 500 million, every day, that’s about USD40,000 per day, with our partners.”
“Now the Indonesian government is seeing the value of this, where they will be involved and inshallah, iGrow will serve more farmers”.
Making Renewable Energy Accessible to Everyone
Now that the food sustainability issue is solved with the success of iGrow, Muhaimin Iqbal is now turning his attention to the next resource issue: energy.
“So now, I’m more focused on the energy sector. I’m trying to address the energy issue, especially clean energy. We calculate that Indonesia will have a problem with insufficient energy. That’s why our company name is AfterOil.”
“We’ve been doing research for the past three years. Alhamdulillah, our research findings came up much earlier. Next month we will join an international exhibition.”
“My idea is very simple. We try to do, what people had a thousand years ago, where everyone can make their own fire, by just collecting wood.”
“We must bring the independent energy to everyone because whoever controls the energy resources, controls the world.”
His idea is of giving back control over energy to individuals.
“The main benefits are clean energy, and independence. You’re no longer dependent on electricity companies to supply electricity.”
AfterOil has invented a mictro-turbine that can convert any liquid fuel into clean energy. The source of the liquid fuel can be either, solar, or biomass or domestic waste. For more details, watch the video below.
Building an Ecosystem To Share the Wealth
Muhaimin prefers to build an ecosystem, such as the independent vendor distributors known as Narkoba in Indonesia, rather than be a major player or a monopoly.
“People can work together with us at the same level. AfterOil can contribute to the micro-turbine, and you can contribute to how to convert the liquid fuel from its original source.”
“A lot of things need to be done where we can collaborate on the solution.
It’s better to build an ecosystem, and instead of a single big company to control it.”
“This is thhe spirit of how alQuran wants to build things. The wealth shouldn’t just circulate among the wealthy people.” Muhaimin then went on to quote the Quran, surah al-Hashr, verse 7:
“As for gains granted by Allah to His Messenger from the people of ˹other˺ lands, they are for Allah and the Messenger, his close relatives, orphans, the poor, and ˹needy˺ travellers so that wealth may not merely circulate among your rich. Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it. And whatever he forbids you from, leave it. And fear Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.”.
“So what you need is basically, whatever your subject, trust and believe in the al-Quran, and then try to implement this as commanded in the al-Quran.”
Muhaimin Iqbal has previously contributed his writing on the Quran on Halalop, Divine Intelligence and How It Can Change the World
Farah Ishak is a Content Writer at Halalop. She grew up in the United Kingdom where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Management. Later, she completed her MBA and held senior-level positions in Malaysian based MNC. She left the corporate world to be with her young kids. She is passionate about issues concerning Muslim women, Startups and Muslim businesses in general.