At the helm of one of the country’s largest online dating firms, Adeem Younis believes building families is at the heart of his community’s existence. Mark Casci met up with him.
The world of online dating is a highly modern construct, allowing people to find loved ones in an era when free time is at an absolute premium.
The market is valued at more than £14bn in the UK alone.
But for tech entrepreneur, Adeem Younis, he views much of the sector as frivolous, selling unrealistic material images of what people are supposed to look like.
His business, SingleMuslim.com is ranked as one of the top 10 dating websites in the nation. It has more than one million users in the UK alone and resulted in tens of thousands of marriages taking place.
He is now seeking to take the company internationally and believes that with a potential global audience approaching one billion people the firm can become a global player.
“What we do is not frivolous. You look at an image for a split second and either swipe right or swipe left – there is nothing more vulgar in my eyes than that.Adeem Younis
However, the founder and boss of SingleMuslim.com views the platform he has spent 18 years developing as something far more important than allowing people to rate individual appearance with the swipe of a finger across a mobile phone screen.
“We are not just a tech company for the sake of being young and fresh,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“We are here to get people together for a long-term relationship.
“What we do is not frivolous. You look at an image for a split second and either swipe right or swipe left – there is nothing more vulgar in my eyes than that.
“SingleMuslim.com is about looking at individuals for what they are. Some of our success stories come from people not even looking at the photographs but more likely their interests and ideas.
“As a faith based organisation we do not believe that marriage is just for this life, we believe it is eternal.”
The scale of the company is vast and has been built on organic growth.
However, SingleMuslim.com had less than auspicious beginnings, essentially starting life as a pet project from unused rooms above a pizza shop on Wakefield’s Westgate.
Its genesis was, as Mr Younis says, born out of necessity, with his family wanting him to get married.
He was not keen on his family playing a role in identifying a partner for him so he did what most young people in 2000 did and began to look online.
“He quickly realised there was a massive gap in the market.
“Practically, I was entering the next change of my life but there was nothing on offer at all in terms of online databases.
“So with the resources that I had I set up singlemuslim.com. I thought ‘let’s just see how it works’.”
Within a few hours of setting up the website it had attracted its first registration. A great deal of the initial spreading of the brand came from guerilla marketing and it was during a day out leafleting for his business that he realised he was on to something.
Upon being approached by a large man him asking him if he ran the website he tentatively confirmed it was indeed he who was behind the business.
“I thought I was going to get a good hiding,” he said.
“But he laughed and gave me a big hug. It turned out he had found his wife through the site.
“I had goosebumps.”
Mr Younis lost his father at eight years old. Born and bred on the East Moor estate in Wakefield he was brought up by his mother.
“I guess my identity as a child was of someone who was poor,” he said. “I had no father, my mum was from Pakistan and could not read or write. But she learned how to drive to get us to and from school and to help us get around.
“Back then we did not call it being an entrepreneur, you would have just called it ‘getting on with it’.
“She learned how to sew and became a seamstress and then later on she had her own marketplace stall in Wakefield before she went on to have her own retail shop.
“She educated herself.”
His mother’s actions installed in him the seeds of becoming an entrepreneur.
However, he was able to forge his own identity through early experiences in the workplace and learning.
During a stint doing work experience at Yorkshire Television in Leeds he fell in love with the world of work.
Despite being given relatively menial jobs, Mr Younis hurled himself into each task with dedication, even it this consisted of having to obtain a replacement vacuum cleaner for the office.
Bosses at the station were so impressed they offered him part-time work.
“I was immersed in that world of design and marketing around TV,” he said.
“That really opened my eyes up in terms of creating a business and doing things yourself.
“Seeing those opportunities really allowed me to go on and do my own thing.”
However, the desire to do his own thing was palpable.
SingleMuslim.com grew and grew. Today it is the largest Muslim website in the UK with a 53 per cent market penetration.
Mr Younis is now looking to float the business to bring in fresh investment.
“With anybody’s money, it would take a long time to get the critical mass. It came over time. So many companies have come and gone but we just stayed at it and we were persistent. We have reinvented ourselves several times as well.
“We have always been early adopters. We were early adopters of SEO, of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, the Insta generation.
“We are currently going through a whole review of the apps sites.
“We are future facing, the team is now looking at where we will go with watches, with voice activation, artificial intelligence.”
While proud of the success, Mr Younis believes his company has a wider social utility
He said: “Marriage is half of our faith. It is the cornerstone of our religion. It is not just a website, it is a community.”
Aside from his day job, the 38-year-old plays a pivotal role in the Penny Appeal charity.
The organisation works in over 30 countries, providing everything from life-saving interventions, to domestic violence counsell- ing.
It has partnerships with leading organisations including the Amir Khan Foundation, the Department for Education and the Jo Cox Foundation.