Written by: Amal Javed Abdullah, Staff Writer
SFU student Mostafa Azarbar has co-created an app for locating and organizing halal food services in Metro Vancouver with two SFU students and others. HalalMe, a mobile app launched in early June, helps people who consume halal food locate eateries and restaurants that serve halal food products. Each restaurant is manually verified as halal by someone on the team, and the app has explanations for if non-halal products such as alcohol or pork are served.
The purpose of the app is to make halal food more accessible for the halal food consumer. “If I’m ever traveling in a [new] city, the moment I open the app, with the tap of a finger, I can find a restaurant. It really connects halal food suppliers to halal consumers. With the population of Muslims growing in Canada, there is a high demand for this,” Azarbar explained.
Azarbar, who is also the president and founder of SFU’s Tech Entrepreneurs club, was approached by friend and fellow SFU student Abdurakhman Smazov last March about creating the phone app. In an interview with The Peak, Azarbar said that they began to explore the market by doing surveys. “[We said,] let’s ask everyone we know in the Muslim community of BC what they think. We also created a mock landing page to gather emails, and we got over 300. That’s when we realized there was a need for it, so we thought to proceed with the project.”
HalalMe’s greatest challenge was finding dedicated individuals who were as passionate about the project as Azarbar and Smazov were. “We wanted to find people who had the same passion to help the community, [people who] cared about halal food,” Azarbar told us. After a long search, the team was completed by Wardatul Ferdous, as a designer; Sofwan Naing, to work on marketing and branding; and Muhannad Abwah as lead developer. Azarbar and Smazov focused on business and customer discovery.
The HalalMe team chose to launch the app during Ramadan, a month where Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk. Azarbar says that while it might seem contradictory to launch a food app at a time where the target market cannot eat, the HalalMe team saw it as a strategic move.
“Yes, people are fasting, but it’s also the time people go out and break the fast with their friends and family,” Azarbar explained. “It’s the month where it’s the best feeling to break your fast together with friends [. . .] for people like us who are busy with midterms or have work, we don’t have time to cook, we’re exhausted, so you try out different restaurants.”
The team’s long-term goals are to get the word out, get more users, and get more halal restaurants onto the app. The team wants to use the feedback from users and implement them into the next version of the app, eventually expanding to other cities in North America.
HalalMe was one of the top six finalists for the venture prize hosted by Venture Connection. While the project is currently self-financed, they are looking for investors to back them up with funding.
The HalalMe app is available for download on iOS and Android, and can be found on Facebook and Instagram at @halalmeofficial.