Young entrepreneur develops an app to support Muslims living in Japan



See the original article, written in Japanese

With Tokyo chosen as host for the 2020 Olympics, the city is likely to get more and more attention from tourists. Of course among the many tourists expected to come to Japan, many will be Muslim. Tokyo International Airport recently opened a prayer room for Muslims, but there are other issues to work on. One such issue is food. For example, when I spend time with Muslim friends in Tokyo, it can be difficult to find alcohol-free soy sauce and menus which don’t contain pork. But one entrepreneur has stepped up to try to solve this problem.

Fukuoka-based Kyushu Lab has launched an Android app called HalalMinds. It enables users to scan the bar code of any product to identify if it is halal, or permissable for Muslims to eat. The app also has a Qibla Compass feature, which lets Muslims to determine the right direction for performing prayers.

Japan already has a Muslim population of about 150,000, and about the same number live in South Korea too. Nearly 1.2 million Muslims visit Japan every year either for sightseeing or for business. Kyushu Lab wants to help serve this demographic as potential users or HamalMinds.

The app was developed by Indonesian student Agung Pambudi, a member of Kyushu Lab who has lived in Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Finland. Along with his doctoral studies in Kyushu University, he put a lot of effort into developing this app. He explained:

As a Muslim, we need to live our everyday lives with halal food and drink. But it is hard to find such products in Japan because some processed foods contain pork or alcohol. Also, we even recognize meat not processed in a permissible way as non-Halal. We developed HalalMinds with the aim to of bringing it to not only Japanese users, but to users around the world.

Considering the overall size of Muslim population, even here in Japan, I think there is much potential to monetize such an app. I recall a team of university students who designed an app called C@ndy, a sort of Craiglist for Muslims.

Singapore-based startup Bitsmedia launched an app called Muslim Pro which lets you find halal restaurants and read the Koran. That app achieved 4 million downloads in March 2014.

HalalMinds released its Android app early this month, and an iOS version will follow at the end of this month.