‘I’m building a spreadsheet!’ The guy who took out billboards to find a wife has had 1,000 applications

Muhammad Malik talks to Time Out about his parents’ reaction, how he’s organising his DMs and his ideal first date

Written by
Lauryn Berry

‘It's a bit of a shock when people recognise me on the street, or just come up and say “Oh, how's it going?” I just think: “well, how do you know me?” Oh, okay, because of the billboards”.’ 

Last week, Muhammad Malik went from unknown guy to famous face overnight. Sick of dating, the 29-year-old entrepreneur set up giant adverts for himself in London and Birmingham. Each one featured a photo of Malik, the tagline ‘Save me from an arranged marriage’ and information about how to get in touch. They were picked up by news channels around the world. 

One week later, Malik’s life has been turned upside down, and he laughs as he says: ‘You can’t predict these things, right? Like, how people would react?’ Speaking to Time Out over the phone, the west Londoner sounds cheerful, saying that he’s had loads of applications, contact from old friends and teachers, and even proposals from businesses since he put the billboards up. In fact, he’s already been gifted stuff for his potential future wedding. ‘A company that sells wedding attire for South Asian people has said that when I let them know when the big day is, they’ll sort my swag.’ 

He talks to us about his parents’ reaction, how he’s organising his DMs and his ideal first date.

How many applications have you had so far?

‘1,000 people through the website but quite a lot more through Instagram, a bit on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok as well. But yeah, lots of DMs, some cheeky slide-ins...’

What’s your process for sorting through the applications? 

‘So, periodically I’ll go through, building a bit of a spreadsheet. I had a background as an auditor, working with spreadsheets, so I resorted to what I know best.’ 

What’s been one of the most memorable DMs you’ve received?

‘There was, or what I thought was, a really extreme DM. It was something like “I’d give you my spleen.” So I was like, “Wow, you know, this is not the organ donation collection site”. And then I realised that it’s actually a term of endearment in their language and it was just lost in translation. There was also a lovely lady from Turkey. She sent a video application, which was really cool. She said “I would love to be your wife, as long as my brother can come down to London as well.” You can tell she's probably got good experience in stand-up comedy.’

What would be your ideal first date with one of the lucky applicants?

‘It might be a bit of a culture shock for people, but for me that would be to meet in a setting where it isn’t just us, but there are also family members around. That's the Islamic way to go about it, there’s always someone there as a chaperone. That would be perfect. And I'm obviously open to anything, it could be crazy golf, or literally just staying at home.’

On your website, you mentioned family means a lot to you, how did they react to your billboards?

‘I did have to give my family a bit of a warning. My dad was really open and thought it was a fun thing to do from the outset. Mum was a little bit apprehensive. She's a bit more shy but she’s realised this is a good thing to do and is quite fun. Both of my parents are cool.’

Do you have a timeframe for finding a wife?

‘There’s definitely no timeframe. For me it was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thing that 2022 is the year, but it doesn't have to be. I have a strong belief in predestination, that things are written and not to worry. I think it's really important to have that genuine connection with somebody because we're looking to leave a legacy behind us.’

What have been the best and worst parts of this experience?

‘I think the best thing so far has been the ability to speak about myself as a person, and as a person of faith and to talk about the importance of marriage. I think the negative element is dealing with fame. You feel all this praise being given to you but you don't feel like you deserve it. There’s a bit of a clash between who I am versus people’s perception of me.’

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