There’s life after Lavalife for innovative thinker
By AJIT JAIN
He helped bring lava-life.com to the world and now Rasool Verjee plans to become known as the “cell phone Robin Hood.”
Verjee is a member of Canada’s 70,000-strong Ismaili community of Shiite Muslims, the majority of whom are professionals and businessmen.
His friends and business partners describe Verjee as an innovator — “a person with foresight” whose “business ideas are often ahead of their time.”
“He’s among a small segment of the population who are truly creative,” says Howard Lichtman, formerly executive vice-president of Cineplex Odeon, now president of The Lightning Group.
Verjee brought to Lichtman the idea of accessing movie information on the telephone. He called it Telemagix and it was launched in 1987.
“We are talking of pre-Internet days when you could access information about movies only through the newspapers,” Lichtman says. “Today it sounds like ‘so what’ but 18 years back it was a revolutionary idea.”
Born in Kenya, Verjee went to England when he was eight and completed all his schooling there, including a Master’s degree in law.
In 1989, he co-founded Lava-life, North America’s first voice- and web-based dating service, which sold for $180 million two years ago.
“Rasool led me to that successful venture,” said principle partner Bruce Croxon. “He’s always ahead of his time.”
So Croxon didn’t hesitate to invest in Verjee’s latest venture — Mobilemiser (mobilemiser.com).
Nicknaming himself the “cell phone Robin Hood” or “cell phone bandit,” Verjee promises to save you 80% on long-distance calling on your cell.
“The first service of its kind,” Verjee explained that subscribers call 647-476-7070 at no charge.
“This number is always busy but the system will immediately call you back thus making it an incoming call and not an outgoing long-distance call,” he said.
And there are hundreds of other successful Ismaili businessmen in Canada, including real estate developers, hoteliers, doctors and architects.
But it’s not all business for Verjee, says lawyer Iqbal Dewji.
“He’s following in the steps of thousands of Ismailis to provide personal service daily in prayer halls, hospitals and community centres all across Canada,” Dewji said. “The slogan of Agakhan volunteers is ‘work no words.’ ”