As the digital age continues to transform every aspect of our lives, finding love has become big business globally. Worldwide spend on dating apps was £448m in 2017, according to app research company App Annie. Dating apps made up three of the top 10 apps by consumer spend last year in the UK, according to the firm.
The growing Muslim community is a major driver of Britain’s online dating boom. Testament to this is the success of SingleMuslim.com – the UK’s first ‘matchmaking’ site.
Its founder Adeem Younis claims his site has sparked around 100,000 marriages since it was founded in 2000. SingleMuslim.com is currently number eight in the top ten general dating platforms in the UK.
Founded in a tiny office above a pizza shop where Younis used to work, the website now has over two million registered users globally. Fending off healthy competition from rival British-owned sites such as MuzMatch and Muslima, SingleMuslim.com is the biggest Muslim website across all categories in terms of active users, database and usage.
Younis says he initially set up the website in 2000 to solve a very personal problem – his own lack of a matrimonial partner. His ruse worked. He found a wife through his site and is now father to four children. “[Dating] was a struggle at the time for every Muslim in my age group,” the entrepreneur tells Arabian Business.
The 38-year-old Yorkshire-based businessman says that a lack of online dating options before the turn of the century led to young Muslims being forced into unwanted arranged marriages by relatives.
“These marriages were breaking down and, as a result, whole families were breaking down. Since marriages were usually between first cousins, divorces could really fracture families. SingleMuslim.com was a simple solution to a complex problem.”
Younis says his site has always been an early adopter of technology. He explains: “We’ve been pushing the boundaries since we launched. We have a comprehensive data section where we ask people about their faith and what’s important to their faith, their income, their profession, education, background, languages, living arrangements and physical appearance.
“You can also search by these (attributes) as well. Not only do we cater to those who want a DIY service, but 10 per cent of users have also registered to find somebody on behalf of others, like friends or children.”
Unlike global dating apps such as Tinder and OK Cupid, SingleMuslim.com doesn’t allow for ‘swiping’ through matches. Younis says: “Marriage is deeper than just what you look like. Faith teaches us that the most important factor to marry on is piety because that’s going to stay with them; that’s going to make them principled for this life and the next one.”
He adds: “Even the mainstream sector is looking down on Tinder because it’s not good for society or families. Even though society has got all these apps to help us find people, we’re still lonelier and have more mental health issues than ever before. It’s because people are not looking for long-lasting relationships –they just want quick fixes.”
According to Younis, SingleMuslim.com is about finding someone meaningful and compatible. “It’s not just about getting married, which is easy – it’s about staying married,” he says.
Like its conventional rival paid-for sites such as Match.com and e-Harmony, SingleMuslim.com is a subscription-based website. Despite spending ‘millions of pounds a year’ on marketing, Younis say about half of the site’s visitors come through personal recommendations. The founder predicts the company’s numbers will continue to surge as the global Muslim population expands.
“A third of UK Muslims are currently under the age of 15 years, so that population is going to come through,” he says.
SingleMuslim.com is currently focused on English language-speaking Western countries, including the UK, America, Australia and Canada, but Younis has imminent plans to develop the brand further afield in the Middle East and Asia.
Younis says: “A lot of Muslims in the UK are of Pakistani origin or Asian sub-continent origin. They’ve notified their families and we now have a lot of organic members in the Asian sub-continent and the Middle East. North Africa is proving successful for us as well.”
SingleMuslim.com already has over 200,000 in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia. The site is particularly popular in the UAE because of the country’s large western expat community and south Asian labour communities. The site also has several successful Saudi Arabian marriages on its books – as women look for Muslim men outside their immediate local environment.
Younis says: “For us, it’s the right time to target the emerging markets as well because there’s a lot of technology platforms and payment gateways available that weren’t available five years ago like mobile payments.
“Our plan is to go global because the UK market is very, very tough. It’s got lots of competition and it’s one of the toughest matchmaking markets in the world. I see ourselves as being one of the biggest brands in the world, not just in the UK.”
Younis, who is also co-founder of the UK-based Penny Appeal charity, says he counts SingleMuslim.com as a ‘community service’.
He says: “We’re not just facilitating marriages. It’s a really liberating service, we help people and it’s a cornerstone to a society. Religion is bringing people together.”For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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