Investments

Kitab Sawti, an Arabic audiobook platform, raises $6 million Series A from international and regional investors including Careem’s Abdulla Elyas

Arabic audiobook platform Kitab Sawti that claims to be the largest of its kind has raised $6 million Series A from new and existing investors, the startup announced today, adding that it will use the investment to expand its content and reach.

The investment came from Sweden-based Bonnier Ventures which is VC arm Bonnier, one of the world’s most renowned publishers; Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel Group, Dubai-based family investment house Kaaf Investments, and returning investors Sweden-based Northzone and Careem’s co-founder and CPO Abdulla Elyas. Abdulla had first invested in Kitab Sawti in 2017 along with Careem’s co-founder and Chief Xperience Officer Magnus Olsson and some other investors.

Founded in 2016 in Sweden by Sebastian Bond, Kitab Sawti had initially started as a project to help Syrian refugees in schools, with the aim to make it easy for them to become a part of the Swedish society but the startup in its early days realized the demand for Arabic audiobooks all around the world and built a dedicated platform for it. The company that’s still headquartered in Dubai now has offices in Dubai, Cairo, and Palestine, and claims to host over 2,000 Arabic titles on its platform with 1 million registered users. The audiobooks are available on Kitab Sawti’s website and mobile apps.

Apart from the Arabic titles, the platform also hosts many translated international books as well including Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Hunger Games.

Sebastian Bond, the founder & CEO of Kitab Sawti, commenting on the occasion, said, “The successful Series A funding is testament to the platform’s growth potential, particularly coming from established venture capitalists and investors who have scaled global billion-dollar businesses before. We have witnessed growing consumption of our content over the past period, with more than 1 million registered users and a 20% month-on-month growth in paying users. The next 12 to 18 months will be very exciting for us as we deploy the funds to bolster the platform’s leading position in the Arabic audiobook industry, supporting more than 5,000 new jobs in the industry in the process.”

Hamzeh Al Fuqha, Chief Content Officer of the startup, added, “The success of the Kitab Sawti platform has been largely due to the investment in a wide range of high-quality content, creating what is now the world’s largest library of Arabic audiobooks. The Series A funding will primarily support the enrichment of Arabic content on Kitab Sawti, allowing thousands of established and aspiring content creators and narrators to expose their work to a potential market of 400 million Arabic speakers around the world.”

Abdulla Elyas, co-founder of Careem, said, “Kitab Sawti is riding the wave of a global growth trend witnessed in the audiobook industry. I believed in the business and its purpose early on and I continue to support it in a bid to inspire more entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and develop businesses that have positive socio-economic impact in our region. Preserving the Arabic language and nurturing a culture of self-education in our region are both critical needs that I am confident Kitab Sawti will help addressing.”

It is the second audio tech startup that’s focused on Middle Eastern audience to have raised investment in last one week. Kerning Cultures, a Dubai-based podcast network for the Middle Eastern audience, had also announced closing of its $460,000 seed round, on Wednesday last week.

Zubair Naeem Paracha

Founder at MENAbytes
A tech and startup enthusiast based in Riyadh. Zubair apart from leading MENAbytes is also building Qraar, a career discovery and development platform for millennials in MENA. He can be reached on Linkedin, Twitter or zubair [at] menabytes [dot] com.
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