26 February 2021

Breaking New Ground and Bringing Halal to Hong Kong

Sharifa Leung at 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd

Sharifa Leung

Project Manager & Event Planner at Acute Consulting Services
Managing Director at 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd (HANI Halal)
Master of Social Science (Counselling)

Despite being born in the vibrant and international city of Hong Kong, growing up Muslim, Sharifa Leung always longed for delicious and high-quality Halal food in her neighbourhood.

The relatively small Muslim population had yet to gain much attention from local food manufacturers and restaurant operators to produce such food locally, so she decided to take matters into her own hands with 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd (HANI Halal).

With her experience in events and project management – and a Master of Social Science from the University of South Australia under her belt – Sharifa set out to build a thriving halal ecosystem within the city in light of the soaring global Muslim populations and travellers.

Sharifa describes Halal products as a traceable edible luxury with food produced and prepared adhering to Islamic laws with the highest food hygiene and safety standards under a stringent Halal certification system.

Sharifa at the 2020 Hong Kong LOHAS Expo Showcase where 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd won best superfood for their ARIHA Medjoul Dates
Sharifa at the 2020 Hong Kong LOHAS Expo Showcase where 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd won best superfood for their ARIHA Medjoul Dates.

“I feel that Hong Kong has yet to improve its capability to build Muslim-friendly food and services for incoming Muslim travellers in order to stay competitive among other Asian cities,” Sharifa says.

“It is important to me personally, since consuming Halal products not only means obeying God's commands, but also enables me to lead a wholesome life.”

As the Managing Director, Sharifa is developing strategies and building a platform to connect different Muslim parties and share knowledge with the local community to promote Halal food throughout all of Hong Kong. She's also partnering with her friends importing the finest Halal food and beverages into Hong Kong and providing consultation and training to companies interested in tapping into the Halal industry.

Raising the awareness on the importance of cultural sensitivity is the key to help the hospitality industry to accommodate different religious travel needs and Sharifa believes that this can be accomplished through trainings to develop the right knowledge and expertise for the growing sector.

However, difficulties and challenges are inevitable when starting up a venture and breaking new ground, and Sharifa and her team have experienced their fair share.

Being the pioneer in this industry, at first, they struggled to really define an audience and engage participation. They’ve now employed strategies through a continuous supply of information; learning new techniques on Social Media; building trust and listening to the needs of customers; and translating their challenges into opportunity.

Some of Hani Halal’s product displays showcasing their food offerings.
Some of Hani Halal’s product displays showcasing their food offerings.

When these difficulties arise, Sharifa is able to rely on her past roles as an event and project manager, and particularly her time studying at the University of South Australia and all her learnings she gained during her Master of Social Science.

As an event planner, and also volunteering with a charity, Sharifa was looking to enhance her working relationships with different parties and vendors during the event solution’s process when she came to the University of South Australia.

Through her Master of Social Science, she developed key counselling skills that enabled her to help those around her to resolve their problems, improve interpersonal skills, and share her beliefs and outlook on life.

While she is no longer full-time with Acute Consulting Services Ltd – which focus on event management solutions, interior design and other design work – these skills have proved valuable in building and establishing 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd and she still looks towards her teachings and relationships from this time.

“Through reading textbooks and research papers in the two-year programme, it broadened my understanding and knowledge in Psychology and etiquette in counselling. I also gained valuable friendships with my classmates and we still keep in touch to support each other, even after graduation, to this day,” Sharifa says.

“Most importantly, I was able to recognise the importance of cultural sensitivity in a multiethnic city like Hong Kong, and for what I am doing now, it enables me to promote the concept of ‘Halal Friendliness’ to local non-Muslims.”

Sharifa (second to right) with her fellow UniSA Master of Social Science graduates and friends
Sharifa (second to right) with her fellow UniSA Master of Social Science graduates and friends

These skills and interpersonal skills have proved valuable, particularly in the busy past month with the Lunar New Year festivities lighting up cities across Asia. Considered as one of the most important festivals in Hong Kong, there are a wide variety of events and celebrations such as fireworks display and parades, that fill the city with joy.

However, this year of the Ox will be a little different amid the pandemic, with preventive and control measures most of the scheduled events are cancelled and people are advised to stay home with celebrations in small groups only – though Halal food will still be playing a large part in Sharifa’s community with those still celebrating over special meals.

“Some of our New Year Customs include annual house cleaning, putting up auspicious decorations, having a reunion dinner with family on New Year's Eve, watching fireworks, and giving red packets and other gifts when visiting families, relatives, and friends.”

“I will be spending my time with family and relatives, making festive food such as radish cake, pudding and dishes with auspicious meaning to welcome the upcoming new year.”

So, what will this auspicious New Year bring Sharifa Leung, HANI Halal and 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd?

“At 3 Hani Enterprises Ltd (HANI Halal), we are aiming to be a catalyst to grow Hong Kong into a Muslim- friendly city,” she says. “And I personally aim to own an open mind and cherish what I have; being a responsible citizen, a caring daughter, and a dedicated Muslim is all I would pray for.”

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