Normah Omar , an Outstanding Game Changer

By: Nur Hamizah Binti Mohd Radzi

SHAH ALAM- Professor Dr Normah Omar, director of the Accounting Research Institute (ARI HICoE), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) is the recipient of the Game Changer Award 2016 by the UK online business magazine, Acquisition Finance (ACQ).

Professor Normah, who has more than 30 years of experience in the research field received the award due to her efforts of introducing ARI HICoE’s research niche in Islamic Financial Criminology as a new knowledge corpus globally.  Essentially, Islamic Financial Criminology (IFC) is premised on two generic concepts – Islamic Finance and Financial Criminology.   IFC supports Malaysia’s aspiration to become a global Islamic Finance hub by 2020.  To build a sustainable Islamic Finance industry, IFC propagates the need to focus on three elements: (i) the need to introduce new Islamic finance products or innovating existing ones, (ii) the need to enhance governance of the Islamic finance sector, and (iii) the need to mitigate financial leakages – from fraud, corruption, money laundering etc.  Researches in Islamic Financial Criminology therefore are premised on these three elements.

“When it comes to Islamic Finance, people will relate it to Islamic Banking. Actually, it is more than that.  Islamic Finance encompasses other important non-banking sectors such as Waqaf, sukuk, Zakat, Islamic microfinance and Islamic social enterprise. One should not just focus on the revenue component of Islamic finance.  Equally important is the governance and risk management components of Islamic finance that could assure long term sustainability of the industry,” she said.

Micro finance for the small entrepreneur is an example of an existing Islamic finance product innovated by ARI. According to Professor Normah, the existing module of microfinance only involves financiers and entrepreneurs. The main key performance indicators from the perspective of the financiers is mainly their ability to collect the loan from the entrepreneurs.  Although some basic trainings are provided, they are insufficient to sustain the micro businesses. In many cases, the micro businesses are not sustainable.  Some entrepreneurs even had to either use their life-time savings or opted to get personal loans to pay the financiers their weekly dues.  One of the most common challenges faced by these entrepreneurs is their limited clientele base and their inability to connect to a supplier for raw materials.

Prof Normah believes that an innovative Islamic microfinance model must link the entrepreneurs to a complete supply chain – both a supplier and a marketer.  At the same time, the microfinance entrepreneurs must be adequately trained in financial management, business strategy, risk management, business integrity, governance and productivity. To date, ARI has helped many microfinance entrepreneurs in Tanjong Karang Selangor, Paka & Kuala Terengganu in Terengganu to propel their businesses to greater height.  Many have evolved their businesses from micro to medium levels.

The innovative Islamic microfinance business has been made possible through strategic collaborations between the entrepreneurs, financiers, a hypermarket and ARI. Two exploratory microfinance projects in Selangor are respectively financed by Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) and Pusat Zakat Selangor (under the Asnaf program).  Similarly, in Terengganu, two microfinance locations respectively in Paka and Kuala Terengganu were chosen and financed by the Sultan Mizan Royal Foundation or Yayasan DiRaja Sultan Mizan (YDSM).  

Under the innovative Islamic microfinance model, the micro entrepreneurs, who are involved in the Baju Kurung tailoring business work in a group of between fifteen to twenty persons (Sahabat).  The group receives financing from the respective financiers.  Financing would also include the purchase of sewing machines, cutting machines and provision working premises. Mydin Holding Berhad acts both as a supplier of tailoring materials and a buyer of finished goods (baju kurung). As a buyer, Mydin sets a business target of 500 pairs of baju kurung per week.  In collaboration with the financiers and Mydin, ARI coordinates various business trainings for the entrepreneurs.  Important data such as efficiency and productivity levels; revenue, expenditure and saving patterns, product quality management of entrepreneurs are documented and analysed by ARI postgraduate students. Through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding, it has been agreed by all parties that the project should “graduate” the entrepreneurs within a period of two years, after which a new group of entrepreneurs would be trained.  It is anticipated that this innovative project would be able to enhance the economic wellbeing of the entrepreneurs in the long run.  ARI hopes to duplicate the project to all states in Malaysia by the year 2020.

Sales transactions are made every week, in which the financiers (AIM, YDSM)  provided transportation of raw materials from Mydin Holdings Ltd., and of tailored baju kurung to Mydin Holdings Ltd. to be marketed. Entrepreneurs receive group training on business and financial management from ARI researchers.

As the head researcher of ARI, Professor Normah ensures the efficiency of the supply chain for each microcredit unit and collects data on the microcredit business, to ascertain the effectiveness of the new developed model.

Researchers at ARI ensure that the quality of the tailoring is maintained and that the entrepreneurs pay the microcredit debt consistently to AIM.  The entrepreneurs are also reminded to be mindful of other intrinsic elements of business – integrity, ethics and governance.

The success of the microcredit business model is seen by the fact that the quantity of baju kurung produced by the entrepreneurs increased from 100 pairs a week in the first month to 500 pairs a week within a period of three to six months of the project.  Personal and business savings of the entrepreneurs have increased and more importantly, their “quality of life” has tremendously improved.

ARI’s innovative works on Islamic Financial Criminology have been recognized globally.  In 2015, the Accounting Research Institute was announced as “ISLAMIC FINANCIAL CRIMINOLOGY RESEARCH BODY OF THE YEAR” by the ACQ (Acquisition Finance Online) Magazine (UK) .  In the same year, The Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) accorded ARI with the “PIONEERING RESEARCH IN ISLAMIC FINANCIAL CRIMINOLOGY 2015”.  
In 2016, ARI receives three global awards namely (i) GIFA 2016 for “BEST RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN ISLAMIC FINANCE”; (ii) ACQ 2016 for “ISLAMIC FINANCIAL CRIMINOLOGY RESEARCH BODY OF THE YEAR FOR TWO CONSECUTIVE YEARS”, and (iii) ASEAN Risk Awards 2016 under the catergory “RISK EDUCATOR 2016”.

For the record, ACQ 2016 gives the following recognition for ARI director: “GAMECHANGER of the Year, Prof Dr Normah Haji Omar,  ACCOUNTING RESEARCH INSTITUTE - Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)”.  

For further information, please contact Prof Dr Normah Omar at Accounting Research Institute (ARI), Level 12, Menara SAAS, UiTM Shah Alam, 40450 Shah Alam, Selangor or through email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*If you are interested to publish your article on research, kindly contact Research Impact & Ethics Unit, IRMI, UiTM or emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..