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  • Writer's pictureConnar Stratton

Startup idea #17: Umrah and Hajj financing

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Idea: Shariah-compliant financing options for Muslims who are looking at completing their pilgrimage to Mecca, specifically Umrah or Hajj.

Note: I am not well versed in the Islamic faith, but this seemed an interesting enough idea to add to the blog, bringing in a new flavour.

Problem: Part of the Islamic faith involves a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This can take the form of Umrah or Hajj. Umrah being a non-compulsory pilgrimage at anytime of the year, and Hajj being an obligatory extended pilgrimage that all Muslims are expected to take at least once. Most families would need to use financing, but cases of Umrah/Hajj-related fraud have reached 400 million dollars in Indonesia alone. The situation is desperate enough that the Saudi Arabian government is looking to invest in FinTechs that can help finance people's pilgrimages.

Insight: It's not clear yet why more solutions don't exist in the market

Validation method: A unique way to validate this idea is by approaching several local mosques. You can explain what you are trying to do, and ask if they would be willing to let you gauge interest from their community. Given the high prevalence of scams, the clergy will be able to lend you enough credibility to get market validation.

Notes: The weakest part of this startup idea remains the actual idea itself. Although the problem is well-defined, it's not very clear the best way to approach it. You would need to test, interview and iterate to get to a clearer solution. You could be focused on providing tours with financing, or an outright loan.

Additionally, Shariah-compliant finance is quite different to conventional banking, lacking interest and instead being asset-based. So you would need to partner with someone who understands Islamic banking to support the business model. On top of that, the startup would need to develop a really strong brand with community connections so that people are willing to trust your company.

Why am I doing this? I’m an innovation consultant who helps businesses build new products, and ventures. And I want people to see how easy it is to build, and validate an initial business idea. Hopefully inspiring them to start their own business.

Am I worried that people will take the ideas? I hope they do. These ideas will hopefully make the world a better place. Just remember, “Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything”. What’s most likely is that within a month of testing the idea, the idea would have completely pivoted, but this is a starting point.


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