Change Or Be Changed!

There’s a saying—“history repeats itself”.

In 1848 the French revolution, led by the young, took place amidst a backdrop of rising food prices and recession, quite similar to the scenario existing across the Middle East leading to the events of the past 3 months. The information technology connecting the people then was the newspapers.

163 years later it’s social media that’s brought about the calls for change.

The political changes in Middle East have a very strong correlation (and learning) for the Islamic Finance industry.  In plain words, Islamic Finance needs to acknowledge the impact of social media and the consumer community (in this case the youth) and take its strengths into their business strategy going forward. If this very important social trend is ignored, compartmentalised, even attempted to be marginalised, by sticking to the current (totalitarian) approach, all the industry will end up alienating its current and future customer base.

What is the correlation between the prevailing political changes and Islamic Finance?

The answer is: YOUTH & SOCIAL MEDIA!

  1. Youth: 60% of the region’s population is under 30. These youths have aspirations. Aspirations that are normal for people of that age (and the demands are not esoteric). The youth want to be treated as citizens! Quoting a recent survey of Middle Eastern youth (in Time) the #1 wish of the youth( in nine countries) was to live in a free country with well-run, modern societies and to have jobs.
  2. Social Media: Today’s global youth is a highly aware, informed and connected community . A generation with common yet distinct preferences, needs, wants. A generation that’s commonly referred to as “Gen C”—Connected Generation connected thanks to satellite television, internet, mobile phones. A connectivity that’s given rise to increasing empowerment as individuals and as consumers. Empowerment that’s transforming the consumer and business environment, rapidly across the globe. Empowerment that’s here to stay!

With political change will follow social and economic change as fulfilment of the basic aspirations become priority. It’s an unavoidable process and one where the clock cannot be turned back.

Let’s bring this back to what all this has to do with the Islamic Finance industry. For starters:

  1. The youth are today’s and tomorrow’s customers for the industry. With 60% of the population (just in Middle East) being under 30, they will be customers and key decision makers in the coming three decades.
  2. This group has a very different mind-set and psyche. Honesty, transparency and benefit oriented are key value drivers for this group.

What does this mean for the Islamic Finance industry?

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