Many followers of a religion dare not question the methods of figures who head religious institutions. To add, there is a lack of governance over these practitioners in positions of religious leadership.
“Among the unethical practices that I have observed is the mismanagement of funds in the collection of charities and institutions,” British Muslim entrepreneur Muddassar Ahmed told Vulcan Post.
“Thus, I thought that a platform that directly connects users with vetted professional service providers ensures users get what they pay for while service providers receive payment for their services,” he explained how his site ImamConnect came about.
Its launch in August 2020 was also timely as the pandemic led to many in the Muslim community being underserved due to restrictions on physical meetings.
ImamConnect was first launched in the UK, but Muddassar saw fit to bring it to our shores in early 2021 based on a few of his observations.
A Growing E-Commerce Industry
Apart from his personal respect and affection for Malaysians after doing some work here for a few years, Muddassar added, “The Malaysian market is active and often on the radar of investors and tech startups.”
“On top of that, the tech and e-commerce sector have strong support from the Malaysian government through various sector and industry related policies which makes it an ideal location.”
Certainly, we’re seeing much more support for these sectors now with MDEC even targeting 875,000 MSMEs to adopt e-commerce by 2025.
Overseas, these foundations are more established, hence ImamConnect’s initial focus on the UK and US markets, allowing it to have a stronger network of providers from those countries.
As of now, ImamConnect lists 5 service providers in Malaysia that can aid in Islamic design, education, and homeopathic therapy, for example.
Muddassar acknowledged that this was still a small pool, but shared that they have plans to hire more people in Malaysia to concentrate on recruiting providers.
Transparency Is The Key
From what I can see, ImamConnect has taken the necessary steps to give users a peace of mind. For each listed provider, information is displayed transparently.
Users can see the provider’s biography, their qualifications, what categories of service they’re able to offer, and even the level of vetting they underwent before being listed, and more.
On the site, service charges are also listed upfront to further allow for transparency and more competitive rates. As coming on board as a user or service provider is free, ImamConnect monetises by taking a percentage of the transactions.
Once ImamConnect’s Malaysian listings are more populated, we may see providers offering a variety of services from marriage and family matters to birth and death, counselling and support, and classes and training.
Some of these include child-minding services, matchmaking, funerals, wills and inheritance matters, interfaith engagement, videography and photography, and more.
Muddassar shared that a steady demand for ImamConnect here has come from UmranTV, a Malaysian YouTube channel with 36k subscribers, who’s already engaged services from the platform.
“In the current pandemic situation, we plan to actively promote ImamConnect via online initiatives and word of mouth for the initial phase, and when things return to normal, we hope to then begin on-ground engagements,” he shared.
Not Replacing, But Complementing
Something I brought up to Muddassar was the possibility of making ImamConnect accessible in Bahasa Melayu too, since a large portion of our Muslim population here is better versed in it, thus allowing for better and easier market penetration.
Right now, English appears to be the default, which can’t be helped as a majority of service providers that come on board indicating their languages are concentrated in the West. Muddassar was quick to assure me that having Bahasa Melayu on the site is something they’re working on.
After all, it would be advantageous since ImamConnect is confident in the traction it can gain here, and is thus planning to open a regional office in Malaysia.
“Since its inception, ImamConnect has been working with Malaysians, including our founding team member, Zain al-Haddad. Having an office in Malaysia would also mean a better outreach to the Australasia region,” Muddassar said.
He acknowledges that as ImamConnect grows, it has the ability to impact the landscape of Muslim services and their providers, but rather than replace, it serves to complement existing institutions.
“We’ll always need traditional institutions like mosques and schools, that’s home. But ImamConnect can help Muslims worldwide stay connected to their faith when physical contact is not available.”
“By aligning our model with Muslim values, we will improve both the standards and incomes of Muslim service providers by fostering a worldwide community for them to connect with. ImamConnect could change the way religious services are provided forever,” he concluded.
Featured Image Credit: Muddassar Ahmed, founder and CEO of ImamConnect