Adeem Younis, Founder of the hugely successful dating site SingleMuslim.com and Chairman of the Penny Appeal, is also a great supporter of the British Asian Trust, as one of our Founders Circle members. Adeem recently spoke to the British Asian Trust about his extraordinary career and his experiences of visiting our mental health programme work in Pakistan.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career to date?
This would have to be running SingleMuslim.com which is the largest Muslim website in the UK in terms of membership and usage. Last year there was an independent poll carried out that ranked us as 8 in the top 10 mainstream dating websites in the UK. It’s really a remarkable success story because we’re based in Yorkshire and off the beaten track – it’s not like we’re based in Silicon Valley, or even down in London!
Why do you think Single Muslim has been so successful?
One of the biggest challenges we all face in life is finding a suitable and compatible life partner and this can be particularly difficult within the backdrop of arranged or forced marriages, quite common within the community. When we first set up back in 2000, we perceived this as a major crisis within this demographic, who didn’t have a platform to find someone. This service has been putting power back into the hands of the individuals and giving them control over their own destiny.
How do you stay passionate about what you do?
My grandfather was in the British army and came over here as an economic migrant from Pakistan and worked in the wool industry. My father then worked as a labourer in factories and then as a taxi driver. But as a third-generation immigrant myself, I feel I am hugely lucky to do something I love and earn a living from it too. Sadly, my father passed away when I was only eight years old and so I learned quite early on to not take anything in life for granted. It’s about pushing yourself every day and make each day count.
Philanthropy and giving back is a big part of your life – what approach to philanthropy have you adopted and how much has this been influenced by your professional life?
I have had many well-wishers who have helped me to succeed and so I believe that when you’re climbing the ladder up, it’s important to reach out and help others up as well. I also believe that we all have a responsibility to give back to society and that is what lead me to set up the Penny Appeal, which to date has donated over £70 million to worthy causes. We see Penny Appeal is a ‘small change, big impact’ charity to help educate and lift whole families out of poverty.
What issues are you particularly passionate about supporting? And why?
I have always been hugely passionate about supporting less fortunate children, especially those that have been orphaned. I guess that comes from having lost my father and though I don’t see myself as an orphan, I know how especially difficult life is for poor children in South Asia and other parts of the world, who don’t have a parent or father figure. Not only are you poor in terms of not having financial assets, but you also don’t have anyone to look after you.
You recently visited Pakistan and saw some of our mental health work in action. What did you observe during your visit?
It wasn’t a scheduled visit as such, I happened to be in the region and popped in to see the work. It was fantastic to see the work being carried out on a normal day. The programme was strategic and well thought out and I learned a lot from speaking to one of the doctors at the Basic Needs facility. Through my own experiences, I know a lot about charity, programmes and issues of safeguarding, but I was struck by how much I learned over there about the whole approach. The team were incredibly well informed, not just about the programme and mental illness, but all the cultural sensitivities around it.
It was a real eye-opener and a breath of fresh air to see the efforts. I was so impressed that I asked my team to see how we can further work with the British Asian Trust on the ground. It is vital that mental health issues are given the attention they deserve through both programme work that allows access to treatment, but also through awareness building activities. I have already been recommending other supporters to visit and would encourage everyone to do so.