Many followers of a religion do not dare to question the methods of figures who run religious institutions. In addition, these practitioners in positions of religious leadership cannot be ruled.
"One of 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 the Vulcan Post.
"So I thought that having a platform that connects users directly with verified professional service providers would ensure users get what they pay for, while service providers get paid for their services," he said of how his website, ImamConnect, came about.
The August 2020 launch was also timely as the pandemic left many members of the Muslim community underserved due to restrictions on physical meetings.
ImamConnect was first launched in the UK but Muddassar felt it appropriate to bring it to our coast in early 2021 based on some of his observations.
A growing e-commerce industry
Aside from his personal respect and affection for Malaysians after working here for a number of years, Muddassar added, "The Malaysian market is active and often on the radar of investors and tech startups."
"In addition, the technology and e-commerce sector is strongly supported by the Malaysian government through various sector and industry-related measures, which makes it an ideal location."
We are sure to see a lot more support for these sectors now, as MDEC is aiming for as much as 875,000 MSMEs to introduce e-commerce by 2025.
These bases are more established overseas, which is why ImamConnect is initially concentrating on the UK and US markets and offering a stronger network of providers from these countries.
The homepage of the offers and the service providers of ImamConnect in Malaysia / Photo credits: ImamConnect
ImamConnect is now listing 5 service providers in Malaysia who can help with Islamic design, education and homeopathic therapy, for example.
Muddassar admitted that this was still a small pool, but said there were plans to hire more staff in Malaysia to focus on vendor recruitment.
Transparency is the key
As far as I can see, ImamConnect has taken the necessary steps to keep users comfortable. Information is transparently displayed for each provider listed.
Users can see the vendor's bio, their qualifications, the service categories they offer, and even the level of review they went through prior to listing, and much more.
This shows the scope of the offers of a service provider as well as further categories / picture credits: ImamConnect
The website also lists service fees in advance for greater transparency and more competitive pricing. Since it is free to get on board as a user or service provider, ImamConnect makes money by taking over a percentage of the transactions.
Once ImamConnect's Malaysian offerings become more populated, we may see vendors offering a wide variety of services, from marriage and family matters to birth and death, counseling and support, to teaching and training.
Some of these include childcare services, matchmaking, funerals, wills and inheritance matters, interfaith engagement, videography and photography, and much more.
Muddassar said that UmranTV, a Malaysian YouTube channel with 36,000 subscribers that has already used services from the platform, has steady demand for ImamConnect.
"In the current pandemic situation, we plan to actively promote ImamConnect in the initial phase through online initiatives and word of mouth. When things return to normal, we hope that we can start engagement locally," he said.
Do not replace, but complement
Something I brought to Muddassar was the ability to make ImamConnect available in Bahasa Melayu as well, as a large part of our Muslim population here is more familiar with it, which allows for better and easier market penetration.
At the moment, English appears to be the default, which cannot be helped most of the on-board service providers who state that their languages are concentrated in the West. Muddassar quickly assured me that they are working to have Bahasa Melayu on the website.
After all, it would be beneficial as ImamConnect is confident of the traction it can get here and is therefore planning to open a regional office in Malaysia.
“ImamConnect has worked with Malaysians since its inception, including our founding member Zain al-Haddad. An office in Malaysia would also mean better contact with the Australasia region, ”said Muddassar.
He admits that as ImamConnect grows, it can influence the landscape of Muslim services and their providers, but it does not replace it, it complements existing institutions.
"We will always need traditional institutions like mosques and schools, this is home. But ImamConnect can help Muslims around the world to keep in touch with 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 promoting a global community to connect with. ImamConnect could forever change the way worship services are delivered, ”he concluded.
- More information about ImamConnect can be found here.
- You can find more information on e-commerce topics here.
Selected image source: Muddassar Ahmed, founder and CEO of ImamConnect