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Uyghur Entrepreneur and His Halal Food Business in Xinjiang
   2015-10-04 02:03:40    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Yangyang

Radil Abla, director and founder of Arman muslim foods industrial group of Xinjiang,ltd works in his office in Urumqi, Xinjiang on August 19,2015. [Photo: CRIENGLISH]


Today we continue our series of reports to help mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by bringing you the story of a man from Xinjiang who is hoping to capitalize on halal food in the predominantly Muslim region of China.

Dedicated to developing the Halal food sector for the past 20-years, Radil Abla has turned the Arman Group into one of the largest manufacturers of Halal products in Xinjiang.

Radil admits he never imagined his business would boom like it has been since he began operating out of a 10-square-meter rented store.
Like many other entrepreneurs who start from scratch, Radil went through a lot of trials and tribulation at the beginning.

He admits that, at times, he regretted leaving his steady job with a regular salary to take up his passion.

"After I graduated from university in 1990, I worked as a research assistant at a local public institution. At that time, most people here in China dreamed of getting a secure a job in the government or a public institution. So when I went out on my own, at first, even my family didn't support me. But I felt I had to make the move."
But inspired by the adventurous spirit of some of his friends who started their own business, Radil decided to leave his comfort zone and seize the opportunity.

"I helped my schoolmates start their business before I quit my job. I felt more energized in the private-sector. More importantly, I still wanted to improve my own life. I had some dreams to realize. I thought I needed to at least give it a try and work hard for my future."
Radil first began his company by operating a small supermarket.
It was then that he realized halal foods were largely neglected by many retailers at that time.

He says it was then that he put his plans into action to create a business opportunity in the sector.

"I discovered that supermarkets rarely carried Halal foods, and realized the market potential. It was then I decided to focus my business on Halal foods. From there, I began to open factories. And before I knew it, my business was expanding and prospering like never before."

After 20-years' hardwork, Radil has expanded his operations across Xinjiang, running close to 4-thousand small markets and several food processing plants.

He says he belives the Halal food sector still has huge market potential, given that Muslims make up over half of the population in Xinjiang.

Radil says he's now focused on promoting the creation of better standards for Halal foods.

"We have always been dedicated to the standardization of Halal foods. We use industrial processes and standards to make our foods halal. We use standard methods from the very beginning. Food in Xinjiang, such as lamb skewers, pilaf, naan bread and other staples are processed through standardized methods and then delivered to our retail outlets. This allows our stores to quickly provide customers with the wonderful foods, which are also safe and affordable."

To promote his idea, Radil has adopted a popular business model from overseas.

He's now working on a project to combine his markets with fast-food restaurants which specifically cater to people who want halal food.

" The Arman supermarket chain emphasizes food service. We have learned from chain stores like seven-eleven. We are introducing fast-food into our chain stores. Many are now more of a restaurant than a supermarket. We've also built 'central kitchens' that produce standardized halal snacks and send them to our chain stores, which offers convenient food for our customers."

Radil does say what worries him the most is the lack of officially-recognized standards for halal products.

He says he's worried it may hinder the development of the whole industry, particularly as more and more food companies tap into this sector.

"A lack of national standards for halal food manufacturing here in China restricts development of the business. And it affects the exports of halal food. Most of the time, manufacturers stick to their own standards. Local authorities are trying to settle the problem, but it takes time. With the large Muslim population in and around the region, the market is huge. But without certain standards, there could be chaos in the industry. "

Hamit Aysa is an assistant of Radil's, and also an old friend.
He's in charge of production at Arman's halal food processing plants.
At one of the processing facilities in the suburbs of Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, Hamit takes us through some of the procedures they use to make the food.

"This is the cooling process for our crunchy candy. The candy bars can't be cut all the way through. Machines are set to cut them just slightly. We then use different machines to cool and dry them until they split to ensure the taste and flavor of the fruit and nuts inside the candy stays inside."

Hamit has been working with his friend in promoting the standardization of Halal food for years.

He says he's very proud of their work in trying to promote standards for halal foods.

Hamit says it all starts with the ingredients.

"We use standard methods from the very beginning. Cultivating the crops, transportation, food storage, usage, processing and packaging, should all be taken into consideration as we promote the standardization of Halal foods."

He says he's also worried that food from Xinjiang hasn't been getting enough attention on a global scale.

He says a lack of promotion and marketing is holding that back.
Still, Hamit says he believes food from Xinjiang will become increasingly popular in the future, given the huge market potential.
When it comes to the broader plans for the development of his operations on a more global scale, Radil Abla says he can take the lead from other entrepenures like himself in China.

"Arman has always been dedicated to industrialization. We have found a unique advantage, and are doing our best to build a good business. I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs in our country. They are diligent and modest. They have a natural spirit toward working hard. I have learned a lot from them, and that has changed my life and my business. It has helped my business become more successful. I have been encouraged by their spirit and have been given strength and power by them. So, we have confidence in promoting Xinjing foods across the country, and across the world."

The Xinjiang business man also says he hopes there will be even more opportunities for him, both in Xinjiang and throughout other parts of the world, through the "One belt, One Road" initiative launched by the central government.

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