Naseeb.com and Emerging Muslim Social Business Models

Naseeb.com and Emerging Muslim Social Business Models

Rafi-uddin Shikoh
Posted Apr 8, 2008

Ikram a native of India, whose family lives in Saudi Arabia, had just finished his MBA in the US. It was March 2004, and while busy looking for jobs he logged onto Naseeb.com – a Muslim social networking website – to connect with like minded people.

He soon stumbled upon an anonymous profile of Canadian born Pakistani girl Aleena to whom he sent a digital ‘Salam!’

The conversations turned into a friendship to the point where they decided their parents should meet. Incidentally, Aleena’s parents were in Saudi Arabia as well.


Above logo is trademark of Naseeb Networks
Image Source: madeonnaseeb.com

A series of meetings with their parents soon led the two to have their ‘Nikah’ (formal wedding contract) in NJ, USA in November 2004. But interestingly they had there ‘Rukhsati’ (the sending off that takes place after ‘Nikah’) in Pakistan followed by a ‘Walimah’ (reception) in India!

Besides our belief that marriages are made in heaven, the odds of the above series of events happening in a non-tech world would probably be very slim. That’s the impact of a digital matchmaker like Naseeb.com. In Ikram’s words, taken from his story on ‘Made on Naseeb’ pages, “A click of the mouse changed our lives.”

Naseeb.com, a Pakistan based Muslim social networking website with 350,000 registered users is part of a handful of successful ventures that are tapping into the growing online Muslim population and benefiting from this hugely profitable online business model while serving an important social need.

To put it in a global context, US based match making leader eHarmony.com, has 17 million members, $200 million in annual revenues and 30% yearly growth while claiming to result in 90 marriages a day!

These business models are also profiting big in the emerging markets of India and China. Validating the potential of this model within the online Muslim market, Naseeb.com has recently secured Series B Growth Capital funding from prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists, ePlanet Ventures and DFJ (Draper Fisher Jurvetson), to fund its further growth.

Naseeb.com and Others

‘Naseeb’ means ‘destiny’ in several languages of the Muslim world. Destined to lead this venture was Mr. Monis Rehman, a successful Silicon Valley based Internet entrepreneur, who combined his passion for internet business models with the growing potential of Muslims wanting to connect with like minded individuals. Backed by founders and executives from Paypal, LinkedIn, Excite and Cisco he built Naseeb.com connecting big with online Muslim audiences in North America and Pakistan.

Speaking to DinarStandard on its success thus far, Mr Rehman said, “Most Muslims in the US between 18 and 35 know of someone who met their soul mate through Naseeb.com. Our matchmaking and social networking service has had a significant social impact in the US, UK and Canada and has served to aggregate the fragmented and distributed Muslim community in North America.” This he has managed while being profitable the last four years.

Today, with a second round of funding secured, Naseeb.com is part of the broader Naseeb Networks which provides online recruitment, social networking and other related services with a focus on the Pakistani online market. The Company has 42 employees between its offices in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and San Jose, USA and also operates Pakistan’s most popular job search website ROZEE.PK with over 650,000 active job seekers using the service.

For Naseeb.com, Mr. Rehman sees his competition on a global scale which includes global players such as Match.com, Yahoo Personals and other match making services. However, matchmaking is also a more localized, language and culture driven need and hence Naseeb.com’s closest competitors are perhaps those that are targeting its regional/ cultural audiences.

The attached table shows how some of the regional sites, such as Bentelhalal, Qiran, Muslima, eZawaj and others, have started to scratch the surface of the massive global online Muslim communities.

Muslim Social Sites Global Ranking
WEBSITE
Global Website Ranking*
Leading Visitors
Bentelhalal.maktoob.com
144
Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Territory, Kuwait, Algeria
Qiran.com
5,909
Egypt, Morocco, GCC, US, UK
Muslima.com
6,318
Morocco, Algeria, France, Tunisia, UAE
eZawaj.com
19,413
GCC, Levant
Singlemuslim.com
32,779
UK, US, Pakistan
Muslimmatrimonial.com
34,803
Indonesia, UAE, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh
Naseeb.com
58,908
US, Pakistan, Canada, India
Muxlim.com
84,870
Palestinian Territory, Malaysia, US, Egypt
Shadi.com
113,541
India, Pakistan, US
Nikah.com
113,558
India, US, Malaysia, Pakistan
Mehndi.com
128,220
Pakistan, US, UK, Germany
Matrimony.org
134,579
UAE, Morocco, Indonesia, Tunisia, Iran
Zawaj.com
174,317
Morocco, Germany, US, Egypt, Spain
Mecca.com
180,471
Jordan Morocco Qatar
Source: Table compiled by DinarStandard.com, *Alexa.com

How Does the Business Work?

Muslim social networking sites and pure matrimonial sites have some differences but essentially work to connect people socially.

Social networking sites are more casual (similar to Naseeb.com, Muslimspace.com, Facebook, Orkut etc) with emphasis on building a friends network. This type of networking can serve many purposes one of which maybe seeking a soul mate.

On the other hand, pure matrimonial websites have features geared to finding the closest matches and facilitating the start of a meaningful conversation for the purpose of finding one’s soul mate.

Both business models however use a combination of subscription services and advertising revenues. Anyone can signup for free to use certain limited features, but to use all features one would have to pay anywhere from $7 to $30 a month.

Market Size

The size and potential of such a business is not trivial. Eventhough, Naseeb.com and most Muslim social/ matrimonial sites do not disclose their financials, DinarStandard estimates a Muslim matrimonial website such as Qiran with 1 million registered members as earning $5-6 million in subscription fees annually. Mr. Rehman states that Naseeb.com has been profitable since 2004 and that their revenues have grown by around 700% since then.

Given that the online population of Muslims is estimated to be 90 million+ and fast growing (Internet Stat World, CIA World Factbook), these sites have only begun to scratch the surface of the overall market potential.

A global comparison shows that match making industry in the US alone rang up $649 million in revenues in 2006, according to Jupiter Research, a market-research firm. A much relevant comparison of such businesses in the emerging markets of China and India is also very promising.

In China, according to local research firm iResearch, 500,000 paying users in 2006 brought in revenues of $24 million to the industry and are expected to rocket to 3 million by 2010, generating sales of at least $160 million.

In India, the industry’s growth could be even more explosive. A Time.com article estimates that users of matrimonial sites there have doubled every year. Sales are growing 50% annually and reached $30 million in 2006. Shaadi.com, a leading Indian matrimonial site with almost 10 million members and with 800,000 success stories to its credit, estimates that the potential matchmaking component of the overall matrimonial industry is about $300 million.

For Naseeb.com’s market within Pakistan, Mr. Rehman estimates that Pakistan’s 12 million Internet users are projected to grow to 30 million users in the next five years, giving it a healthy momentum. He adds, “The total advertising market is growing at a similar pace and we intend to bring a significant portion of that ad spend online. While our primary focus is to serve Pakistani Internet users and their associated diasporas, we also provide services to Muslims in 100+ countries worldwide.”

Growth of Internet Users in Muslim Countries
Country
Internet Users 2007
User Growth (’00-’07)
Indonesia
18,000,000
800%
Turkey
16,000,000
700%
Malaysia
13,528,200
265%
Pakistan
12,000,000
8861%
Iran
7,500,000
2900%
GCC*
5,296,200
325%
Egypt
5,000,000
1011%
Nigeria
5,000,000
2400%
Morocco
4,600,000
4500%
Sudan
2,800,000
9233%
*Saudi Arabia (2.5 mill), UAE (1.4 mill), Kuwait (700 k), Oman (285 k), Qatar (219 k), Bahrain (155 k)
Source: Internet Stat World

Customer Shape Online Businesses

The mantra for any web-based business model goes beyond the traditional “customer is always right” – and extends to incorporating customers in all aspects of business decision making. In the new Web 2.0 world, customer generated ‘content’ becomes very much part of a company’s product (eg. YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia).

Mr. Rehman’s Naseeb.com also lets its consumers define the product. He explains, “The online culture on Naseeb.com has evolved as a result of the community’s interaction on the site. It has assumed an identity of its own. Our job is to facilitate and channel that evolution.”

“We initially introduced a strong social networking element to Naseeb.com to overcome the stigma of online matchmaking in the Muslim community. Since then, we have learned that majority of our active users are more interested in finding their soul mate than in engaging in typical social networking activities. So now we intend to introduce a strong matrimonial component to Naseeb.com.”

Explaining the virtues of successful online business, Mr. Rehman adds, “We have remained humble and listened to our customers. We have put a stronger emphasis on creating value then technical innovation. When genuine value is created, we believe revenues follow.”

The local Pakistani market as well as the global Muslim market is in its infancy and is experiencing rapid growth. No doubt, there is much that can be expected from Naseeb.com and others to introduce efficiencies and opportunities through the Internet in these markets.

Key Learnings:
Naseeb.com, a Pakistan based Muslim social networking website with 350,000 registered users and has recently secured funding from prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists, is part of a handful of successful ventures that are tapping into the growing online Muslim population and benefiting from this hugely profitable online business model while serving an important social need.
The Online population of Muslims is estimated to be 90 million+ and fast growing (Internet Stat World, CIA World Factbook), and sites such as Naseeb.com, Bentelhalal, Qiran, Muslima, eZawaj and others have only begun to scratch the surface of the overall market potential. In India alone, sales reached $30 million in 2006 and are growing 50% annually with an estimated potential matchmaking market of $300 million.
Success for any social networking business model goes beyond the traditional “customer is always right” – and extends to incorporating customers in all aspects of business decision making. In the new Web 2.0 models customer generated ‘content’ becomes very much part of a company’s product (eg. YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia.)

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