MS Originals

S’porean Creates Grave-Finding App For Cemetery-Working Family, Ends Up Helping Thousands

Grave Builder Ramzul Ihsan Created Grave-Finding App To Locate Tombs In Muslim Cemetery

As cemeteries are places where the dead rest, many would prefer to leave them, well, as places of rest.

However, one family in Singapore decided to enter this industry that many shunned, and they are now happier for it.

Before the pandemic, Mr Ramzul Ihsan’s parents started working as cleaners for graves before learning to build tombs and provide other post-funeral services.

Despite some initial shame, Mr Ramzul got into the industry himself and started building tombs as well, before a chronic back injury forced him to stop.

This didn’t deter him from developing a grave-finding app — named Kubur Search — that now helps thousands of people.

MS News spoke to Mr Ramzul to find out more about how his family became grave builders as well as how he became the developer of Kubur Search.

Got into industry during Covid-19 pandemic

Mr Ramzul told MS News that his mum and stepdad, aged 59 and 43 respectively, began working at the cemetery between 2019 and 2020.

At the time, his mum had been a nurse for over 30 years before she retired, and was running businesses on Carousell selling traditional herbs.

There wasn’t a conscious intention to enter the industry — Mr Ramzul’s parents had simply wanted to clean their relatives’ graves.

 

Image courtesy of Ramzul Ihsan

During the pandemic, authorities restricted access to cemeteries as part of safe distancing measures.

Only contractors could enter, so Mr Ramzul’s parents registered and began taking bookings to clean graves.

Soon, people approached them to see if they could build tombs as well, and what began as a desire to do a little good became a full-fledged grave-building business.

Muslim cemetery became a workplace

You may or may not be surprised, but Mr Ramzul’s parents actually prefer to work at night as it’s much quieter and less hot.

People don’t visit the cemetery at night, Mr Ramzul pointed out. The only problem? Mosquitoes.

Mr Ramzul would accompany his parents while they went about their work, helping to burn egg cartons – apparently, this is supposed to ward off these dreaded insects.

Image courtesy of Ramzul Ihsan

Like anyone who’s unfamiliar with cemeteries, Mr Ramzul initially viewed them with trepidation.

He’d apologise when sitting on a tomb, for example.

At some point, however, he stopped having reservations and grew to treat the cemetery as his workplace.

Created grave-finding app while recovering from slipped disc

Eventually, Mr Ramzul even started working as a grave builder himself. An avid artist, Mr Ramzul enjoyed the traditional designs on the tombs he’d see at work.

He thought he could build graves himself to supply to his parents, as well as others.

Unfortunately, after months of working on the trade and finally seeing things pick up a little, Mr Ramzul suffered a mishap while at the cemetery and sustained a slipped disc.

It put an end to the grave building business completely as Mr Ramzul could no longer handle the intense work, which involved not only building the tombs but also carrying them.

Image courtesy of Ramzul Ihsan

“I was crushed,” Mr Ramzul said. Even though he’d struggled at first, he’d come to enjoy making the tombstones.

At first, he was hoping to recover after a few months, but when it became clear that the recovery would take longer than anticipated, he could not return to work as he’d hoped.

“After six months, I started wondering if it’d ever get better,” Mr Ramzul said.

It was around this period that the idea of Kubur Search returned.

Initially created grave-finding app just for own use

Kubur Search came about through conversations Mr Ramzul had with his 29-year-old brother, who frequently assisted both him and his parents at the cemetery.

Image courtesy of Ramzul Ihsan

“We did have an idea to make an app for our own use to help our parents,” he explained, noting that all of them would struggle, sometimes for hours, just to find a single grave amidst the rows and rows of tombs.

With the free time Mr Ramzul now had, he went about developing the app, and soon after he could walk again, he started visiting the cemetery to record each grave’s coordinates.

He’d go down to the cemetery a few times a week, type the number of each grave, then share the live location to himself on WhatsApp, and compile them all at home.

With no way to automate the process, the painstaking manual approach took about a year and a half.

By his own admission, it was just a side project while he recovered. The project then took a life of its own.

Soon, he found himself with a fully functioning app, and after putting it through successful tests, Mr Ramzul began a Kickstarter campaign to fund its overheads in June.

Used to feel shame about grave-building profession

When his parents initially started cleaning and providing graves, Mr Ramzul would hesitate whenever asked to reshare their business’ posts on Facebook.

“I used to think it was a bit of a shame, but now I’m very proud,” Mr Ramzul shared.

“My parents and I are some of the few people who are in this industry.”

According to him, there are under 50 people registered in Singapore, and his parents are among the newer entries.

“Some of them have been doing this for 40 to 50 years,” he said.

Beyond the pride he has in their work, Mr Ramzul has noticed that his parents are happier – with one caveat.

“Now, they’re working even during dinner and at night,” he laughed. He explained his mum’s fear that if she doesn’t reply to a customer, she’ll lose them to someone else.

Regardless, they now set a rule that no work should be done during mealtimes.

Wants to include more cemeteries in grave-finding app

Mr Ramzul says he’s truly heartened by the support, which has allowed him to continue making updates to the app.

Beyond the Muslim cemetery, Mr Ramzul is also looking to expand Kubur Search to cemeteries that serve other communities.

Eventually, he wants Kubur Search to be a one-stop grave-finding app for all cemeteries in Singapore.

There’s a possibility he might have to change the logo when that is ready, so he’s considering opening a contest for a new logo design.

For now, as Mr Ramzul continues to focus on recovery, there’s a chance he might return to working as a grave builder in the future.

With Kubur Search, however, he’s happy knowing that he’s helping to solve an issue that many people face.

Know an inspirational figure you’d like us to feature? Get in touch with us via email at news@mustsharenews.com.

Featured image by MS News.

Jonathan Yee

Jonathan is a bedroom headbanger. His Kobo is never far from him.

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