Many followers of a religion do not dare to question the methods of the figures who run religious institutions. To add, there is a lack of governance over these professionals in religious leadership positions.
“Among the unethical practices I have observed is mismanagement of funds in the collection of charities and institutions,” British Muslim businessman Muddassar Ahmed told Vulcan Post.
“So I thought a platform that directly connects users with verified professional service providers ensures users get what they pay for while service providers receive payment for their services,” he explained as his site ImamConnect arose.
Its launch in August 2020 was also timely, as the pandemic caused many members of the Muslim community to be mishandled 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 some of his observations.
A growing e-commerce industry
Aside 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 is often on the radar of investors and technology startups.”
“In addition, the technology and e-commerce sector has strong support from the Malaysian government through various sector and industry related policies, making it an ideal location.”
Certainly, we are now seeing much more support for these sectors, with MDEC even targeting 875,000 SMEs adopt e-commerce before 2025.
Abroad, these bases are more consolidated, hence ImamConnect’s initial focus on the UK and US markets, allowing it to have a stronger network of suppliers in those countries.
Right now, ImamConnect lists 5 service providers in Malaysia that can help in Islamic design, education and homeopathic therapy, for example.
Muddassar acknowledged it was still a small pool, but shared that they plan to hire more people in Malaysia to focus on hiring suppliers.
Transparency is the key
From what I can see, ImamConnect has taken the necessary steps to give users peace of mind. For each provider listed, the information is displayed transparently.
Users can view the provider’s biography, their ratings, what categories of services they can offer, and even the level of verification they received before they were listed and more.
On the site, service charges are also listed to allow for more transparency and more competitive rates. Because access as a user or service provider is free, ImamConnect earns revenue through a percentage of transactions.
As Malaysia’s ImamConnect listings become more populated, we may see providers offering a wide variety of services, from marriage and family matters to birth and death, counseling and support, classes and training.
Some of these include child care services, marriage, funerals, wills and inheritance issues, interfaith, videography and photography, among others.
Muddassar shared that here there has been a steady demand for ImamConnect from UmranTV, a Malaysian YouTube channel with 36,000 subscribers, which has already contracted services from the platform.
“In the current pandemic situation, we plan to actively promote ImamConnect through online and word-of-mouth initiatives for the initial phase and, when things return to normal, we look forward to starting field commitments,” he shared.
Not substituting, but complementing
One thing I raised in Muddassar was the possibility of making ImamConnect accessible in Bahasa Melayu as well, as a large part of our Muslim population is more versed in it, thus allowing for better and easier market penetration.
At the moment, it seems that English is the default, which cannot be avoided, as most service providers that incorporate their languages are concentrated in the West. Muddassar hurried to make sure that having Bahasa Melayu in place is something they are working on.
After all, it would be advantageous as ImamConnect relies on the traction it can get here and therefore plans 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 better dissemination in the Australian region,” Muddassar said.
He acknowledges that as ImamConnect grows, it has the ability to impact the landscape of Muslim services and their providers, but instead of replacing it, it serves to complement existing institutions.
“We will always need traditional institutions such as mosques and schools, this is home. But ImamConnect can help Muslims around the world 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 the revenue of Muslim service providers, fostering a global community with which to connect. ImamConnect could change the way religious services are provided forever, ”he concluded.
Featured Image Credit: Muddassar Ahmed, founder and CEO of ImamConnect