En­trepreneur who be­lieves that fam­i­lies are at the heart of the com­mu­nity.

At the helm of one of the coun­try’s largest on­line dat­ing firms, Adeem You­nis be­lieves build­ing fam­i­lies is at the heart of his Mark Casci com­mu­nity’s ex­is­tence. met up with him.

Yorkshire Post - Business - - BUSINESS / VOICES -

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.

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 part­time 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 coun­selling.

It has part­ner­ships with lead­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing the Amir Khan Foun­da­tion, the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion and the Jo Cox Foun­da­tion.

It turned out he had found his wife through the site. I had goose­bumps.

ADEEM YOU­NIS:‘So many com­pa­nies have come and gone but we just stayed at it and we were per­sis­tent.’

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