Gone are the days when one would have to visit book bazaars or weekly markets to search for that one book that no store was stocking up on, or books that were way too expensive for the average book reader. This is the promise of a new online service, Kitabain(kitabain.com), a site which offers visitors a used books home-delivery service.
The site was founded in April 2010 by Usman Siddiqui and Jawad Yousuf, who are also owners of The Readers Club, an online library where you can borrow, read and return books at your own convenience.
“We didn’t start The Readers Club and Kitabain with the intention of making money, and they are not our core businesses” says Siddiqui. According to the young entrepreneur, after they started The Readers Club, a number of members approached them for purchasing books, at which point Kitabain was conceived. Siddiqui and Yousuf then approached a number of booksellers and other contacts they had built when they had started The Readers Club. “I was surprised to see the number of books that were out there and not reaching the readers. Most wholesale sellers don’t hold much value and sell books by the kilogram or by the cover” he says. Through Kitabain, major sellers set up computers and got internet access so that they could catalogue and sell their books via the website, including one book seller who was a major source of books when the business started.
Kitbain currently offers a large collection of used and new books, ranging from world history, the occult, fashion and fiction. Kitabain currently has over 28,000 books listed on the site, with more being added daily. In an innovative twist, the site works two ways: users can log in and buy books or they can list books they wish to sell on the website and let the Kitabain team handle the pick-up and delivery between buyer and seller.
The online process is fairly simple. Users must create an account to browse through the categories and select books to add to their shopping carts, confirm the order and check out. A rider from Kitabain picks up the selected books from the seller and delivers it to the buyer. Deliveries are normally made within 24 hours of ordering, however, Siddiqui says “sometimes the seller is not available, so it takes time to arrange a pick-up. But we do try to make a prompt delivery.”
Payment is also fairly easy, as cash is collected from the customer when the delivery is made, but this option is currently limited to Karachi. For people who want to sell their books, there is a simple online process of entering the ISBN number of the book, after which the system will automatically pick up the cover and book information.
Usman says both websites have grown via word of mouth and social networks, and they have yet to get into targeted marketing for Kitabain, while The Readers Club has been advertised in some local papers. The two also plan on marketing Kitabain to schools and universities, as their catalogue offers a wide selection of text books.
Siddiqui says he is very happy with the way Kitabain has grown, citing major changes with the increasing number of customers, which has helped him and Yousuf to shift their attention on expansion plans for both sites.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2010.