How Alchemiya became the ‘Muslim Netflix’
Celebrating the culture and heritage of the Muslim world
Alchemiya streams films and programmes to its global audience celebrating the culture and heritage of the Muslim world. CEO and Founder of Alchemiya, Navid Akhtar, explains that he was originally making programmes aimed at the Muslim community in Britain for the BBC. After setting up his own company, he and his team made a series called The Best of British Islam. He noticed from this that there was real demand for positive portrayals of Islam in the charged post 9/11 atmosphere, where being Muslim was regularly associated in the media with extremism and terrorism. “So there was an emerging idea of lifestyle content for Muslims and really celebratory content that just showed the best of what Islam is about,” he recounts.
Positive portrayals of Islam
“When we sold the series abroad there was clearly an appetite for British Islam around the world. People wanted to see what British Muslims were doing here – what kind of headscarves they wear, what fashion they’re into, what food they eat, how they live their lives,” Akhtar explains. This led to thinking about how to reach a global audience online. “It’s actually a purpose for us, it’s not just simply a money-making exercise. We really do believe that we’re bringing something good into the world by helping communities and different people see themselves accurately reflected on screen… We make sure that all non-Muslims, anybody who watches it, can get value out of it.” One of the aims of the platform is to help people understand each other in the context of polarising events, policy and rhetoric of the past two decades.
A global Muslim audience
The journey to the creation of the platform has not always been smooth, with some questioning the initial idea. Akhtar points to the potential for growth, with around a quarter of the global population being Muslim. There are significant international markets which Akhtar predicts will be interested in the type of content the platform offers. Discussing the upcoming aspirational middle class in many parts of the world Akhtar comments that in “the last calculated figures, about 400 million of those people are going to be middle income.”
Alchemiya has a partnership with Amazon Prime where it is the only Muslim platform. Akthar describes how he initially got a phone call from Amazon and was convinced it was a prank call from one of his friends. In fact Amazon was contacting him because their data suggested that there was a need for Muslim content, and Alchemiya was the only platform they found focusing on it.
Made in Walthamstow
Streaming from East London, Alchemiya has an international audience. Akhtar highlights the fact that media productions from the UK are generally held in high regard elsewhere due to the good reputation of the BBC. “I think globally people see Britain as a centre for excellence in terms of how they present their content… people aspire to having this quality of British creativity.”