As new semesters begin to roll at universities, students are seen thronging Urdu Bazaar - one of the oldest book markets in the city offering pirated copies of textbooks at relatively competitive prices.
Students usually pay Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 for textbooks every semester, but the struggle does not end here because to find the right book, they still have to run from pillar to post as many of the required books are not available at one point or another. Other book shops usually charge hefty prices, reflecting the impact of the law of supply and demand.
Two students of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Imran Hemani and Safeer Hussain, have come to the rescue of students by introducing IBA Bookery.com - an online bookshop - ahead of the start of the new semester. Launched last Sunday, this well-organised student initiative has set up an example for other institutes to follow as many students have been involved in the buying and selling of books through haphazard channels ie via Facebook.
“During our technology entrepreneurship course last year, we pitched in ideas to establish a platform for students to buy and sell textbooks via a few clicks,” said Hemani while talking to The Express Tribune. “Students can place their textbooks for sale at the portal by following four easy steps, while others can buy them and start their new semester without any hassle. We take care of delivery within the campus free of charge.”
Having a computer science background, Hussain said they always wanted to present a technology-based solution to cater to the problems of the students.
The duo, with the help of their course supervisor, Erum Abbasi, devised the business plan and the website was formally launched. For the fresh entrepreneurs, the institute serves as an apt testing-ground with over 750 new students enrolled in academic programmes every year.
Hussain shared the observation that seniors at academic institutions are usually hesitant about asking money from juniors in exchange for used books. “At the IBA Bookrey.com, they can choose to remain anonymous,” he said.
Hemani pointed out that another benefit of the portal was that students usually received around 30 to 40 per cent of a textbook’s actual market price when they went to the market for resale. The bookshop owners, however, resell the second-hand textbooks at around 60 to 80 per cent of the actual market price. “The sellers will be able to get a better price.”
IBA Bookery.com is currently campus-specific as they are dealing with IBA students only, but the brains behind it have big plans for expansion.
“At present, it is a completely free venture for IBA students, but we plan to expand it to other universities in the years to come by designating ambassadors to help the project grow,” said Hemani. “With this expansion, the sellers will become premium account-holders of our website by paying a very reasonable amount.”
The initiative would also serve as the first significant project for a start-up company in the web and graphics design industry - the Big O Studios - established by the duo around two years ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2013.