Media Exclusive: IslamCrunch interviews Muslim Business Club
A headline reading “Muslim Business Club” popped up on our Particls news ticker. Of course, we jumped over to their site to find out what they had to offer. After a quick registration and profile set up, we browsed the features available. Being a social business network, we decided to perform a simple test. We will wait and see how long it will take to make contacts. Well, we didn’t have to wait long. Soon, we were contacted by Farrukh Naeem, an award winning copywriter and journalist, a brother from Kosovo seeking advice and a request to develop a website for new project to help former drug users with rehab, detox, job hunting and housing. Since then, we have also received requests to connect with a project leader for a job search site for Muslims and a business leader in the leather industry. Old friends soon joined and connected with us. For a new networking tool, we have been very impressed. In less than 2 months, they had 1200 members and they plan to re-design their site to prominently feature members’ blogs. During our review process, we contacted Muslim Business Club founders, Rias A. Sherzad and Farid Zazai, to talk about their new project.
Farid and Rias shared with us more details about Muslim Business Club, it’s features and objectives in this exclusive, inaugural interview.
IslamCrunch: What is your web application/service about?
Muslim Business Club: Muslim Business Club is a social business network where people can sign up, create a profile of their skills, and specify what theyâ€™re looking for and what they have to offer. They may also upload their picture and find other members with similar skills or business interests and add them to their list of contacts.
Additionally, and thatâ€™s probably one of the most interesting, useful and fun features of the Muslim Business Club, they may browse through the list of our members and see how theyâ€™re connected to them. Imagine yourself looking at a profile from someone from Malaysia that knows your colleague from Dubai. Weâ€™re visualising such connections and showing our members through whom they are connected to a certain person. Having a common acquaintance often makes it easier to get in touch with someone from the other side of the world. All you need to do then is ask your colleague to introduce you to him.
Of course we also have more features such as a marketplace, a weblog for each member, discussion groups etc.
IslamCrunch: Why did you start this project?
Muslim Business Club: Firstly, we think that the knowledge we, the founders of the Muslim Business Club, have gained here in the West enables and obliges us to help create better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. We think that business brings Muslims and non-Muslims together and thereâ€™s a lot we can contribute to it as we know both sides. We feel it is time to act in a positive way and show the world, that the Muslim world consists of more than just the images they see on TV. Secondly, today’s business moves fast and finding the right business partner is expensive. We believe that the Muslim Business Club will, insha’Allah, save people millions of dollars around the world when it comes to their business. Thirdly, weâ€™re planning on creating a win-win situation for our members by helping them find business partners around the world through our platform and premium services customised to cater to their business needs.
Muslims have a unique business tradition and there are certain expectations that need to be addressed that no other network addresses, especially in regard to our female members. To give you an example: how do we make sure Muslim sisters find their way into the Muslim Business Club? Many of them are running their own businesses, either from home or from their family office but due to cultural or religious reasons, a high percentage refrains from getting involved in online business activities. Weâ€™re working on a couple of ideas to make sure they find a safe place where they can bring their business forward without worrying about any form of harassment. How can we bring a country, a whole culture, into the 21st century if half of its people donâ€™t have an environment that they feel comfortable working and being active in? Thatâ€™s one of the challenges we hope to tackle with the Muslim Business Club.
IslamCrunch: How does your project relate to Muslims? Or is your project geared towards a general audience?
Muslim Business Club: The Muslim Business Club, as its name says, is mainly aimed at Muslims â€“ but also at non-Muslims interested in doing business with Muslims living in the West or in Muslim countries. Imagine American investment bankers offering Halal loans to Muslims in the U.S. wanting to buy a house. We receive requests for such loans on a regular basis! Imagine a Turkish businessman, living in Germany, interested in importing goods from Indonesia. How would he proceed finding a business partner there? Traveling to Indonesia and start looking for one? Or making an online search and getting a whole list of Indonesian businessmen willing to export their products to Europe?
You see, the possibilities are endless and there is a huge market waiting out there for us.
IslamCrunch: If your project is related to Muslims, how do you hope your project will impact the Muslim community?
Muslim Business Club: Globalisation is a challenge so what needs to be done so people stay up-to-date with whatâ€™s changing in the business world? What needs to be done if my product is needed abroad but nobody knows about it? This is one of the points where the Muslim Business Club comes into play.
Weâ€™re providing a virtual meeting point for business partners and helping our members connect to each other. Our claim is “building bridges”, which is meant as building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims. Look at Dubai, where people from all confessions conduct business with each other and politics is put aside. We think that prejudices are overcome and mutual understanding grows when people of different cultures get together for a common goal, such as signing a business deal, and start talking TO each other instead of talking ABOUT each other.
IslamCrunch: How much time do you devote to its growth?
Muslim Business Club: There is no fixed time for this project as it would be for a 9 to 5 job. We have been putting as much as 50 hours a week to this project, sometimes even more than that, and even when we are not on the desk working on the Muslim Business Club, our minds and hearts are.
IslamCrunch: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?
Muslim Business Club: At this founding stage, the Muslim Business Club is managed by two of us – Farid and Rias.
Farid has a strong banking background and has worked at reputed investment companies like Trinkaus & Burkhardt and Capital Stage in Germany. He is now pursuing his businesses in the UAE, where heâ€™s active in the fields of property development. Farid takes care of negotiations and contractual matters for the Muslim Business Club.
Rias is a techno-whiz with a solid experience of around 10 years in the German and British internet and IT world, working for companies such as Sony Europe, Royal Mail of England and Siemens. Rias manages the Muslim Business Club websiteâ€™s features and marketing.
The development of the platform is by the German IT company â€œwortzweiâ€. We owe a lot to them as they believed in us and our ideas when all we could present were a few ideas and visions.
IslamCrunch: What is your design/service philosophy?
Muslim Business Club: Our services strictly adhere to the Shariah business laws. On Muslim Business Club, we donâ€™t accept businesses related to arms, gambling, pornography or any form of violence and in the discussion forums we donâ€™t allow hate speech or provocative comments.
IslamCrunch: What technologies are you currently using?
Muslim Business Club: The platform is built using the PHP scripting language with a MySQL database in the back-end. Weâ€™re currently redesigning and reprogramming the website using technologies such as Java, Spring, Spring MVC and Hibernate.
IslamCrunch: What are the most requested features from your users/community?
Muslim Business Club: Most of our members are looking out for potential business contacts but many of them are also interested in finding a new job. We also get quite a lot of requests on information on Islamic loans and other forms of Islamic investments.
IslamCrunch: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months? The next 2 years?
Muslim Business Club: Within the next six months we will, inshaâ€™Allah, be launching loads of new features that will give our members a one-stop-solution for their online business needs. Within the next two years, youâ€™ll see sections that we call â€œpillarsâ€. Each one of them will represent a certain business need. Our goal is to turn Muslim Business Club into a necessity for our members as their e-mail accounts have become a necessity for them.
IslamCrunch: What is the greatest challenge to your success?
Muslim Business Club: The greatest challenge weâ€™re facing is conveying the message of online business networking to an audience that has not been exposed to that message before. Many of our members are still new to the concept of connecting to other people that they have met online and leverage that connection and profit from it.
IslamCrunch: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?
Muslim Business Club: Weâ€™re currently translating the site into Arabic and Turkish language, but more languages will follow. The next phase of the project also consists of additional features that weâ€™re currently working on.
IslamCrunch: Do you have a business model? If so, what is it?
Muslim Business Club: All features on the Muslim Business Club are and will stay free. The useful networking, messaging and forum features that you see now will always be kept free and open to all.
IslamCrunch: If youâ€™re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?
Muslim Business Club: Itâ€™s too early to be discussing site traffic – we have just launched a couple of weeks back. But you might be amazed to know that we already have members from 93 countries with high levels of membership from Germany, India, the UAE, the United Kingdom and the USA.
IslamCrunch: Are there any aspects of this project that have made you proud?
Muslim Business Club: Yes, of course! The overwhelming feedback of our members is what makes us very proud. We have received hundreds of e-mails and there was not even one negative, not even a neutral, feedback. Instead we have received such an encouraging response that we have decided to bring some of our future plans closer. We have also received e-mails of success stories of our members â€“ the first one just two weeks after we went live! We now feel the world needs the services of the Muslim Business Club and this makes us proud.
IslamCrunch: How would you describe the shift thatâ€™s occurring with the web right now to future generations?
Muslim Business Club: In three simple words: A better life. Muslim Business Club is creating an infrastructure to ease peopleâ€™s business life. This is new to our current audience but future generations will know and use our services as people today are using their e-mail accounts. It will become part of their daily business life and weâ€™re helping in creating that shift.
IslamCrunch: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?
Muslim Business Club: There are some favourite German, American and Arab news sites and also a few web logs that we read. We also pass by IslamCrunch.com and have noticed that you have been very active lately.
IslamCrunch: What do you hope IslamCrunch can help you to accomplish?
Muslim Business Club: We do need members and attention so itâ€™s very helpful to have the word of the Muslim Business Club spread out. Some of our members have put a link on their blog, others are telling their friends and colleagues about it and others are offering us public exposure such as IslamCrunch.com.
IslamCrunch: If you could collaborate with another organization or participate on another project, please list them here.
Muslim Business Club: We receive collaboration requests on a regular basis and weâ€™re currently checking out a few of them. There are some well-known websites among them and weâ€™re trying to assess if there are synergies that are of mutual benefit.
IslamCrunch: Any other comments?
Muslim Business Club: Weâ€™re seeking IT professionals living in Hamburg, Germany. Feel free to get in touch with us if youâ€™re looking for a career growth opportunity and would like to help build the next Internet phenomenon.
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