I was talking to, Feezul Abu Bakar, a muslim entrepreneur, this week who is targeting the muslim community. His app mobilemuslim.com helps Muslim’s find shariah compliant services. It’s like Kaodim or ServisHero for Muslims. In this article I’m going to be talking about some of the advantages and disadvantages that Muslim and other religious startups have.
There are lots of apps doing this sort of thing targetting specific ethnic or religious audiences. Religious audiences are interesting. Their beliefs act as a block between them and the most popular services on the market. They are a constrained audience. They have fewer choices than anyone else.
Being a Jew means you cannot take advantage of low cost Chinese pork. Instead you have to eat more expensive lamb or beef and have fewer choices.
That’s not a value judgement. That’s setting out the implications of the religious choice.
Constrained Audiences Suffer for Their Faith
What this can mean is that suppliers to this market can see their audience as easy prey. Service quality can be lower or prices higher
A simple example of this is the consequences of only having a single halal butcher in town. He has a monopoly because the population isn’t large enough to support two butchers
Alternatively a muslim focused search engine will provide lower quality. This is because it doesn’t have the resoures behind it to do an amazing job. Duck Duck Go, which is aimed at privacy activists, has a big gap between it’s search quality and Google’s. This is the price of privacy
This Provides a Huge Opportunity For Remarkable Muslim Startups
This however offers a huge opportunity when targetting constrained markets like this.
Customers are used to poor quality over priced products. Consequently it is far easier for an entrepreneur to create something remarkable. A purple cow as Seth Godin puts it.
This makes customer acquisition easier because you have strong word of mouth. And as religious communities tend to be networked more tightly it can provide a significant competitive advantage.
As you get a strong advantage in your core constrained market you can use that as a bridgehead to attack the larger market. Uber is not going to create an Uber for Muslims app because it is too small and the network effects work against it.
In contrast by working within the constrained limits and working to exceed them you have a significant opportunity to create really inovative products. These can beat market leaders – without the threat of being crushed by them
Action Points for Targetting Muslim Audiences
So when you are a muslim startup targeting an audience that is constrained by their beliefs, such as a minority religious audience, you should:
- make your product remarkable – as good as non-constrained products
- use word of mouth and referral over advertising in most cases
- use your religious (or constrained) audience as a protected beach head to attack the mass market.