When Sebastian Bond was working for an educational audiobooks company in Sweden, he was tasked with integrating Syrian children into Swedish society. During this time, he noticed a lack of support for the Arabic language in schools and in Swedish society at large. This raised Bond’s curiosity to investigate the reasons behind the disconnect and lack of integration of the children in schools.
His search revealed two things. Firstly, the insufficient support for the Arabic language in Swedish schools, created a disconnect between the children and the curriculum. Secondly, the scarcity of digital Arabic content, posed a further hurdle.
At the time, audiobooks were gaining traction worldwide. They allowed individuals, who usually do not read or are constantly on the go to still consume content. These findings led Bond to come up with a solution – Kitab Sawti, an Arabic audiobook library. Kitab Sawti’s initially targeted Syrian refugees in schools; however, the startup quickly realized the demand for Arabic audiobooks all around the world.
The startup plans to expand its content and reach by offering thousands of content creators and narrators the opportunity to join Kitab Sawti. It currently has offices in Dubai, Cairo, and Palestine, and attracted 1 million registered users. The library includes 2000 titles from international and Arab bestsellers. Kitab Sawti offers audiobooks in various Arabic dialects and most of its users are located in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Arabic Content on the Internet
“The audiobook trend is just starting to take off in the region and I believe we have not really scratched the surface of its potential since there are over 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide. With today’s fast-paced lifestyle and the need for Arabic content, we expect strong adoption rates going forward.”Sebastian Bond, Founder, Kitab Sawti
The size of Arabic content on the Internet is 5.3% compared to 24.5% of English content. This proves that there is a strong need for digital Arabic content, whether in audio or in written form. “The audiobook trend is just starting to take off in the region and I believe we have not really scratched the surface of its potential since there are over 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide,” says Bond. He is optimistic that success of available online resources will promote self-education and the Arabic language while providing opportunities to thousands of content creators.
The audiobook platform, has raised $ 6 million in Series A funding, and also attracted additional investment from Abdulla Elyas, co-founder of Careem. It also received investment from Northzone, a venture capital firm known for being the first investor in Spotify.
Kitab Sawti is a “freemium” subscription-based platform, allowing users who choose to not pay, receive access to a limited catalogue. Paying customers, however, have unlimited access to all the platform’s Arabic content. This is different from the credit-per-book model adopted by global platforms such as Audible. Additionally, Kitab Sawti offers a trial period for users to try out the platform, and can then choose to subscribe to the annual, monthly, weekly or even daily model.
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