When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ruh co-founders, Omar Khan and Humeyra Nur Celebi, were among the many individuals who found themselves with mental health challenges. After testing out various digital apps that were aimed at improving mental health and well-being, Khan and Celebi liked the concepts but quickly realized that something was missing.
Khan reflects, “We benefitted from these apps but couldn’t fully resonate with them. After speaking with a number of community members and Muslim mental health clinicians, we found that this was a common sentiment. We also discovered a considerable segment of the community excluded themselves from the benefits of mindfulness as they associate it with their faith but couldn’t find something that connects the two.”
They decided to take matters into their own hands, and put a team together that would help them build a solution to not only solve their own mental well-being needs, but also to serve the ‘niche’ of the 1.8 billion Muslims and beyond in a scalable way. “We wanted to create something that was accessible and of benefit to everyone regardless of their faith background,” Khan says. “Through an accessible mobile format, we wanted to meet our community where they are and support them directly. We also aimed to educate the community with the goal of destigmatizing mental health. [We wanted to] make something that people want.”
This launched the creation of Ruh, a mindfulness and contemplation app that integrates contemporary psychology techniques with Islam. Ruh is designed to help make mental health support accessible to the 1.8 billion people in the global Muslim community and beyond who are experiencing mental health challenges and looking to live happier and more meaningful lives. Given the idea of Ruh was started with the needs of Khan, Celebi and their team, they knew that it would be an app that others would want, and they quickly went on to gain approval from numerous mental health professionals and community members who validated the need for an app like Ruh.
However, the app’s success to date has not come without challenges. In order to grow sustainably, it was important for the team to ensure that their solution was one that people were willing to pay for. A crowdfunding campaign demonstrated to the team that people were willing to invest in Ruh and enabled them to scale up and meet global needs. This also gave the team an indication that supporters would be willing to pay for a subscription to the app once it launched. The unwavering support gave Khan and Celebi the strong market validation that encouraged them to pursue the opportunity full-time.
“We recently completed a crowdfunding round on LaunchGood, securing USD $175,964 and with more than 33,000 supporters,” Khan says. “We had supporters from 16 countries around the world, across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. 95% of the supporters were from North America, which is the initial market we will focus on at launch.”
Since its launch, the Ruh app has been met with great success. Beta user, Hagir Elhadari, shared that “[she had] tried many meditation apps and although great, they all missed what resonated with [her] heart the most – the connection with Allah Almighty. Ruh was the app that finally filled this spot in [her] meditation and [she] would definitely want to continue using this app.”
When reflecting back on the venture’s journey with H2i, Khan remarks that working with H2i was a “game changer in many dimensions.” He shared that out of all the supports, “the most impactful was the growth as a founder with the practical experiences of our mentors and the community of fellow H2i founders. Andris Lauris, my H2i Mentor, has been very supportive and consistently loops us in with relevant opportunities during our check-ins, sharing his advice from an entrepreneurship perspective as well.”
For Khan, some highlights of the H2i program include the Accelera sessions that connected him with a community of other health start-up founders, the opportunity to raise non-dilutive capital through grants, and networking events with investors and potential partner companies. “As a venture lying at the intersection of faith and psychology, H2i’s commitment and support for ventures that advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and their empowerment for the same advanced us much further than we would have been otherwise. We are very honored and grateful to be a part of the H2i community.”
Looking forward, Ruh is aiming to graduate from its public beta stage and do an official launch in late fall 2022. The app continues to gain traction and public support, evident during the MAC Convention (a 3-day Islamic Conference in Toronto), where the team had many people visiting their booth for information, resonating with the idea of the app and telling them how they were proud to see this solution finally created. Ruh also won first place in the MAC DEN, a Social Entrepreneurship Competition held at the MAC Convention.
After interacting with many users during the MAC Convention, Khan found that an interesting topic arose time and time again: “Can we connect with a Muslim therapist within the app?”
“This [question] not only showed us that we had a community who desperately wants a solution that integrates their faith, but also that they are ready to adopt it and want more. The market is ready and willing to pay. It got us started in thinking of Ruh as a Muslim Mental Health platform, more than just a contemplation and mindfulness app, and having connected with 100s (literally) of Muslim therapists so far, we already have a solid starting point to build a directory (which we’ve started building as a side project already – Ruhcare.com). We plan to add this as a new product feature as it is something we know the community really wants.”
Khan and Celebi operate Ruh alongside the support of a strong team with significant domain expertise and successful product experience, both in Tech and Psychology. The team includes Chaplain Yasin Dwyer, the voice of the Ruh app; Rabeea Siddique, who provides insightful advice to the Ruh team using her clinical experience; Sheikh/Prof. Majed Jarrar, who guides the Ruh team from an Islamic and Entrepreneurial lens; Dr. Farah Islam and Ahmed El Khazndar, Content Writers at Ruh; Mohamed Birama, CTO; and Uzayr Siddiqui, who is a part of Ruh’s Product team.
H2i would like to congratulate Ruh for their achievements in their most recent crowdfunding campaign, and applaud them for an impressive and revolutionary journey to date!
If you are interested in learning more about Ruh, please visit their website, or find them on Instagram @ruh.app.
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