The Raise: Islamic Finance Guru

The industry & advice      

Muslims make up 5% of the UK population and about 26% of the world’s population in 2021. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the UK, and the Muslim population in the UK is set to triple over the next 30 years (Pew Research Centre).  

With an eighth of the London population being from a Muslim background, it’s no surprise that demands from the community are growing. The UK plays a massive role in the $4.5 billion global halal industry, with a market share that is only set to increase (trulyexperiences, 2022).

Islamic Finance Guru (IFG)      

IFG is a community-first platform making Islamic investing easier and more accessible. Check out our interview with Ibrahim Khan, CEO of IFG, an Islamic fintech.  

The founders

The IFG story began at Oxford University in 2012, when I met my future co-founder, Mohsin Patel. We hit it off and bonded over our innate entrepreneurial spirit and desire to better the Muslim community. Alongside university, we would put on plays and started a beard oil brand. 

After graduating, we were both keen to do something in Islamic finance. We both went into further study – with an Islamic law degree and a Masters Degree in Islamic financebefore spending four years in the corporate world working for large law firms.  

What is IFG? 

IFG is a hub that offers an ecosystem of services to help Muslims with investment, personal finance and entrepreneurship. 

Our incredible, global network is fueled by a desire to help each other. When we monetised our offering, we didn’t want to make the experience entirely transactional and modelled it on the idea of a knowledgeable friend offering resources to our engaged community. 

We offer investment education through courses and guides as well as actual investments through either our own wealth management platform called Cur8 Capital or in partnership with 70 other investment companies. Our platform is for all Muslims but we do cater our products and content to cosmopolitan and globally connected users, entrepreneurs, business owners, go-getters, self-starters, marginalised groups and those looking to build generational wealth for their families. Half of our traffic is international and the average user is between 25-35 with about 70% of our users being men. 

To further our offering and credibility, we had huge success in providing additional tools and finance calculators. We even offer niche tracking for your annual charitable contribution and net worth. These offerings work holistically so when you create a will, your personal info is already filled and the insights guide you through. 

The IFG story

Alongside our corporate careers, IFG started as a humble passion blog for sharing resources to demystify the world of Islamic finance. Our mission was purely to help people learn more about Islamic finance and make Halal investing accessible to the wider Muslim community. We ran it as a community service for four years. Luckily, we’re just super passionate about researching and writing about investments and personal finance. 

Mohsin and I qualified as solicitors in 2019 and wanted to see if we could make IFG more sustainable by monetising our offering. The blog was doing well with around 2k visitors a month, highlighting the gap in the market for resources within the space. Although we were happy doing this alongside our jobs, we each decided to dedicate two years exclusively to IFG. We went at it like crazy for nine months and the proposition completely snowballed – we were getting 75k visitors a month (now over 100k). By the end of the year, we had both quit our corporate careers and sold our wives on the idea of us working on a startup.

Successfully raising angel funds in late 2019, we dove right in and it all kicked off. There was such a demand for our offering. I remember being on the tube and juggling between two phone calls at the same time. 

How did you gain traction and become Islamic influencers?

With our backgrounds in Islamic scholarship, corporate law, financial planning and venture capital, we wanted to spread our wealth of knowledge in a language Muslims would understand. We truly understand our users because we are our users. Many companies have a great product but no community. We have had an incredible community from the outset, but no product as such. It is an underserved space.

We set out to empower Muslims to invest in their futures and drive wealth into the Muslim community. We want to level the financial playing field and take Muslims from being among the poorest in society to the richest. IFG sets out to help Muslims across the world attain a good level of financial literacy. This ultimately helps Muslim communities better tackle issues of structural discrimination, under-representation and poverty.

Our mission is about community but our offering stretches beyond that. We aim to bridge the gap between classical, Islamic scholarship and contemporary commercial awareness. Both these tools are needed to tackle the knotty Islamic finance problems of today.

What advice have you got for startup founders?  

It’s important that early-stage startups offer more than their paid proposition. Too much content is noise behind paywalls but to build trust, founders should consider offering 99% of their resources for free on the internet. It is important to add things that are synergistic to the overriding business strategy to maximise results. 

All founders should hone in on their niche and start early on their content journey to get the SEO juices flowing. This can be boosted through press features and partnerships allowing them to tap into new audiences. Our podcast and video content broadened our reach and spoke to our wider audience through their preferred channels. 

It’s also imperative that you get the right people in and to ask for help if you need. We needed software engineers, but with neither of us being from a tech background. We got advice from peers and had help with the interview process. 

Key growth markets

We’re seeing the rise of discerning investors demanding excellence, particularly from middle-class Muslims. These sophisticated young professionals want financial equality, while consciously adhering to their religious and ethical values. The younger generations seem to take an increasing interest in their finances. 

One key area is halal food. While leading supermarkets have entered the game, there is still a huge opportunity to tap into this market. The global halal food market is projected to grow by almost 10% annually until 2032 (Future Market Insights, Inc, 2022). 

Another booming area is halal travel – quickly rising as a new phenomenon in the global tourism industry. The demand for Muslim-friendly tourism is being boosted by the savvy, driven generation of Muslims entering the workforce. Check out halalbooking.com who are pioneers within the space. 

Lastly, the charity sector is a key space as charitable giving is a key component of Islam. Muslims set aside 2.5% of their accumulated wealth each year for zakat – giving significantly higher charitable donations than the rest of the population. In the UK alone, Muslims donated over £150 million to charity during Ramadan in 2020, and US$1.8 billion dollars globally in 2021

Why is diversity so important?   

Our mission has always been to add value to minority communities. The founders of businesses who close successful investment rounds still leans disproportionately towards white, male founders. In 2020, only 2.3% of investments went to female founders and less than half went to black founders. We set up our Cur8 Capital offering to be accessible to everyone, with a focus on helping people who haven’t had access to typical capital. We have invested in over 50 different startups, and 63% of those founders have been from a diverse minority. 

The importance of having a diverse team is huge. It has resulted in our diverse investor base and therefore diverse investee network. Due to the range of minority groups within our community, most of our contacts within the investment space are through introductions. Good people attract good people. 

The investments we focus on are alternative investments and venture. This is because the average investment generates a 5-7% return, but we needed to offer more. Our audiences are already playing catch up, so to help them level up, we provide alternative investments to allow them to outperform the average and even double their return. Only 1% of people invest in this type of investment so providing access through Cur8 Capital has built an incredible community of entrepreneurs. These startup founders within the network are all keen to connect with each other and offer a leg-up, wherever possible. We’re always on the lookout for interesting deals and solutions within the space.

What’s next for IFG?  

What does your growth plan include? 

We are really focused on continuing to build out innovative products that help grow our offering to our audience. The first of these is Cur8 Capital, our fully FCA-authorised wealth management arm. We offer minority communities access to institutional-grade venture capital and real estate investments. We have done over 50 deals and £10m thus far – and plenty more to come iA!

Where do you see IFG going?

We are now expanding globally, exploring a presence in MENA and other Muslim-heavy regions. In 10 years’ time we would like to be the go-to brand for Muslims when they invest.

Why was brand so important in that next stage to help you?  

In order to transition to new audiences, you can’t rely just on referrals and references. You need to make a great first impression. That’s where a professional, quality brand really helps. 

How was LoveGunn part of your growth? 

We approached LoveGunn to accelerate our growth by refining our brand strategy. Our website had become outdated and we were keen to make sure that was overhauled alongside our overall brand. We wanted to make sure our sub-brands received a treatment that was coherent with the overall brand but remained distinct. 

The process of working with you was seamless. We met you guys to brainstorm, then went on to review your early stage designs, and then you walked us through the final designs before we chose the route to go down. 

Our website looks far slicker today and is much easier to read and navigate. Early traffic signs are also promising. This goes to show that even if you think things are okay, there is always scope to review and improve things further, with the help of the experts. 

It’s crucial to find an agency that takes the time to get to know you and your brand. We have had great feedback on the new brand and love LoveGunn’s creativity, sense of comedy, and ability to go deep into our industry. 

Check out the case study here.

IFG is going from strength to strength – check them out to see how they can help. Subscribe here to get weekly halal money tips in your inbox. 

To check out their wealth management offering, sign up on Cur8.Capital. Reach out to Ibrahim and Mohsin directly via: [email protected] & [email protected]

LoveGunn is here to bring your brand to life and supercharge the growth of your startup.

Drop us an email to discuss your creative needs: [email protected].

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    The Raise: How entrepreneurs launch & grow their businesses

    The Raise is an ongoing series of interviews with startup CEOs and entrepreneurs by LoveGunn. The series is designed to help share the stories, knowledge and experiences of the incredible and inspirational people we are privileged to meet, partner and work with.

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