How’s Business: Abdelaziz Aouragh

Owner, El Asira, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abdelaziz Aouragh is a twenty-nine-year-old Amsterdam Muslim of Moroccan descent, whose online business has recently garnered huge media interest. The reason? El Asira is the world’s first halal online store for sexual enhancement products.

As Aouragh is quick to point out, his site is aimed primarily at married couples, Muslim and non-Muslim. El Asira is markedly non-salacious, with nary a dildo in sight; the splash page invites women and men to enter separate, discreet shops. (Most of the massage oils, lubricants, and aphrodisiac tablets seem to be gender neutral. Ladies can, however, purchase “Mrs U” brand lip volumizer and stretch mark cream.)

The website supports Dutch, Arabic, and English languages. Aouragh now plans to open a physical store, possibly in the Gulf. If the stereotype of Muslims and sex is that of outright draconian repressiveness, El Asira may play a modest (in every sense) role in debunking that myth.

How is El Asira translated?

If you use the Arabic pronunciation, it means clan, village, or tribe; we feel the most suitable translation is “society.” There are people who say, Why don’t you write it as El Ashira, with an “h”? With El Asira, you get an exotic, Mediterranean feeling, which sounds much better!

Why did you choose this name for your business?

My wife came across it when she was reading a hadith of the prophet Mohammed, praise be upon him. She told me to use the name, knowing that the translation suggests the total concept of society.

When did you first get the idea for El Asira?

The idea was born last summer, in the middle of the recession. But I didn’t think too much about the recession. I’m a Muslim, and I trust in Allah. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make an effort. But if you are steadfast, Allah will provide. And it was the right time for something new. People in business were keen to have a proposal to invest in. I have to keep it real, though, and not shoot myself in the foot.

I presume that you had to do research to ensure that what you’re selling is halal.

That’s correct. From the beginning, we consulted scholars. We want to stick to the Qur’an, the authentic traditions, and the consensus of scholars.

You’ve been getting quite a lot of press — the worst of which has been quite sensational. Has it been good for business?

It turned out to be a brilliant marketing strategy for us: not doing or saying anything about what everyone believes we are all about. People are keen to invest in a totally new concept.

Are you selling products that you’ve developed and produced, or have you sourced them?

The products are developed by a supplier with far more experience with aphrodisiacs than us. We’re in the process of creating a line of products that carry our own brand name. We want to be affiliated with exclusivity, chicness, sophistication, and yet be affordable and for everyone!

Where do you see your business in the future?

First year, giving an interview on Oprah, inshallah! And within five years, having a couple of stores based on the website. And over ten to fifteen years, getting an offer of between seventy and ninety million euros for the business — inshallah.