Photo: Veil, a Muslim matchmaking app, is seen on a mobile phone screen. SALAAM GATEWAY/Emmy Abdul Alim

Islamic Lifestyle

How to maintain modesty, anonymity on a relationship app? New Muslim service puts up ‘digital veil’


DUBAI - A new matchmaking app wants to flip how Muslims find partners online by putting up a ‘digital veil’ to emphasise connections and downplay profile pictures.

The new app launched out of Dubai, Veil, was founded by two childhood friends from Oxford - Olid Waleed Uddin, who works as a digital marketing specialist in the UK and Adam Ward, a real estate project manager in Dubai.

“The 'digital Veil' is a concept which was created for the Muslim population in mind to maintain modesty and respect,” Ward told Salaam Gateway.

“The app allows users to stay anonymous while displaying just enough for others to be able to make a judgement if interested to get to know that person more.”

According to Ward, the app’s features that offers anonymity at first glance has already attracted a certain type of user.

“We have international club first-team footballers who were introduced to Veil through their agents who are associates of ours,” says Ward.

Four national footballers who play on the first team for Turkey, Jordan, Iran and Iraq have used the app, according to Ward, who declined to reveal their identities.

“The app concept really appealed to these high-profile Muslim footballers from Europe and the Middle East as it allows them to have anonymous profiles and search for a genuine partner who is unaware of their celebrity status.”

DIGITAL VEIL

This ‘digital veil’ is a result of four years’ research and development into the matrimonial digital scene.

“Our initial research into a number of matchmaking apps revealed concerning regularities with how misleading photos can be against real life. This inspired us to create the digital veil, which unveils all profile images only when there’s a match,” said Ward.

Veil was soft launched in October 2018 among select Muslim communities in London and Dubai before launching globally in March this year.  The app’s been downloaded 2,100 times so far, with no marketing push, and the founders plan to start campaigns after Ramadan.

Keeping with modesty and respect, the app also wants to minimise fake profiles and only show those that are authentic and of individuals serious about looking for a partner.

Its team of administrators scans new profiles to ensure photos and information are authentic. Otherwise, profiles that have not been updated as advised within 24 hours are deactivated until they are.

The app also plans to introduce face recognition registry steps and artificial intelligence (AI) to authenticate text validity.

The team hopes these will encourage people to add more substance to their profiles to highlight their personality and worry less about photoshopping images and regularly updating them.

It’s also aiming for higher engagement from users more carefully reviewing profiles rather than passing instant judgement based on pictures.

“Veil highlights personalities over looks. Many other popular apps promote the ‘judge a book by its cover’ approach by focusing participants’ attention on how others look instead of their characters. Veil stresses on the importance of making connections that are not just based on looks.”

COMPETITION

The single Muslim smartphone user market is a staggering 200-million plus people worldwide, according to Veil’s research.

This has attracted several start-ups and companies to start Muslim-focused dating, relationship or matrimonial sites. 

In the last four years, there has been three Muslim matrimonial apps which have caught the attention of Muslims and which now have attracted over one million users each worldwide.

Those apps – Minder, Muzmatch, and SingleMuslim - are all based out of the UK predominantly targeting the large Muslim Asian market. 

While they are all available for free, the apps work best with paid subscription models.

Minder, a Tinder-like app for Muslims that launched in 2015, does not allow users to send messages or see people who have ‘liked’ them unless they pay for a subscription, which starts from $10 a month. The app has received a large amount of negative reviews in recent months, with many complaining of fake profiles, difficulties in cancelling subscriptions, and lack of customer support.

Muzmatch, also launched in 2015, allows users to swipe, match, and chat for free. Users can choose to go premium for $20 a month in return for extra features, such as unlimited swipes and more advanced search filters. According to Muzmatch CEO and founder Shahzad Younas, more than 25,000 users around the world have found their partner through the app.

Singlemuslim.com, one of the oldest dating sites in the world launched in 2000, allows free registration that allow members to browse profiles. A user would need to upgrade to gold membership if they want to send and reply to messages and see who has viewed their profiles. Monthly membership costs 10 British pounds if paid yearly or 30 pounds if paid monthly. It is free for female users though they have to pay to access premium features.

According to CEO and founder Adeem Younis, Singlemuslim.com has attracted 2.2 million users and led to more than 100,000 marriages over the last 18 years. Most of the app’s users are from the UK - around one million - followed by the U.S.

Veil is the first to launch out of Dubai and the Middle East and which intends to focus on MENA, Western Europe and Russia before moving into Asia and the U.S.

It is also free to use.

“Our target audience are graduates and young professionals, but we’re seeing daily registrations of people between 18-60 from around the world and we encourage divorced and widowed Muslims to join the platform and find new love,” says Ward.

“Since our recent launch we have already seen matches happen within all age and status categories which is what Veil is really all about.”

BUSINESS MODEL

Since the app’s current features are free to use it needs a sustainable business model to keep it going.

“Veil is free and always will be free to use with current features. We will need to generate revenue in the future especially as our company resource overheads start to increase in parallel with user traffic,” says Ward.

The app was built on the founders’ capital. 

“My co-founder Olid Waleed Uddin and I have self-invested the project so far with current spend reaching $140,000 and that's on a bootstrap budget,” says Ward.

“To create an app of this scale, features, server and database requires the most talented in-house developers so we did not want to compromise on quality and security after initial trial periods with freelancers and agencies.”

The co-founders will offset these expenses against paid features that will be introduced in the future and will help increase profile exposure and chances of matching a desired partner on Veil. 

For now, Veil has partnerships with several high-profile Muslim celebrities in the Middle East which will help grow the platform in the next three to six months. Ward declined to reveal which influencers have come on board but shared that the footballers who have tried the app will be a part of their growth plans.

“The players are keen to get on board and promote Veil in the coming months inshallah.”

(Reporting by Heba Hashem; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim emmy.alim@refinitiv.com)

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Matrimonial
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Heba Hashem