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Readers club and the first online used books market place in Karachi

Here is a guest post by Usman Siddiqui about Readers Club and Kitabain (The one and only online old bookstore in Karachi). I still remember the day when Usman first walked into our offices bursting with the zeal to do something, anything that was different and life changing in Karachi. This is his and Jawad’s story and pitch. Both Readers Club and Kitabain are PASHA ICT Award, PASHA Launch Pad and PASHA Gong Award winners. Usman and can now teach a semester long course about pitching to PASHA judges.

I first met Jawad (not Jawwad Farid) on a brutally cold January morning at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. A few years later with degrees in hand (Actuarial Sciences & Statistics for him, Industrial Engineering & Operations Research for me) we went on completely different professional routes for the ensuing years. Little did we know then that more than a better part of a decade later we would collaborate in launching The Readers Club and kitabain.com back home!

I think the original idea for our online book rental service, crystallized due to a combination of factors. In my time in America I was working with a software company right in the middle of the dot com boom so had seen firsthand the rise and proliferation of online business models. In 2001 Jawad and I returned to Pakistan for different reasons. We stayed in touch and since then bounced around ideas sporadically to leverage the power of the web into building something useful. The one philosophy we did share from Day 1 was to look for a real societal need to address and not use visions of overnight fame and fortune as a starting point. After many years of such discussions, I think the aha moment finally happened in early 2009…by accident. I was looking for a specific book and could not find it in any of the local bookstores. I shared this with Jawad and the thought then crossed our mind that even if the title is available with someone, there is no centralized way for us to look for it or even share the ones we have. This basic idea then evolved into The Readers Club with many iterations and refinements.

It took many months to put all of this together; researching the service model, building the technology and sourcing books. The one factor that remained consistent though throughout this time was the conviction that we were building a useful service‚Ķsomething we’d love to use ourselves.

The Readers Club is Pakistan’s first book rental service. It was started as an attempt to fill the void created by the complete dearth of quality and accessible libraries, and remedy the problem of the high cost of quality books. Our value is a combination of savings, selection, and convenience. Anyone is free to join! Members browse books online (from our collection), pick the ones they like and we deliver them to their doorstep. For a flat monthly fee, members can rent AS MANY books for AS LONG as they want-no late fee.

The Readers Club selection offers the latest bestsellers, and hundreds of other common interest titles in various categories including Fiction, History, Current Affairs, and Biographies etc.

kitabain.com is our latest initiative towards making books accessible to a wider audience in Pakistan. It was started out as a follow up service to incorporate the buying/selling of books. The response to both the services has been beyond our most optimistic expectations, and for that we are eternally grateful to our amazing members.

Kitabain.com is an online Books Marketplace. It was started as an attempt to connect booksellers/bookstores all over Pakistan with book lovers across the country. It is a centralized platform where individual sellers or bookstores can instantly make their inventory available online using our automated system and where buyers can browse for and purchase books put up by numerous booksellers all in one place.

The overriding goal is to make access to books easier for readers across Pakistan. The problems we are trying to address are:

  1. New books are generally expensive.
  2. Access to old books is limited since there are a limited number of old bookstores which are not always accessible to everyone

3. Old books that are available at these bookstores or weekly bazaars etc are poorly catalogued and hence difficult to find.

.Our solution: kitabain.com

1. Properly catalogued and searchable database of thousands of used/new books at deeply discounted prices

2. An opportunity for small bookstores/book sellers to make their inventory available to a potentially much larger audience than the traffic at their stores etc (anyone in Pakistan can be a customer!)

We would like to invite you to try out the two services and would truly appreciate all the help in getting the word out. Thank You!