Entrepreneurs in Egypt: Mohamed Gamal
Young entrepreneurs in Egypt are part of a new wave of self-employment sweeping the nation, and Mostafa Shahat writes about them.
The internet has made a noticeable difference in the Egyptian community since we started using it heavily two decades ago. We have seen progress in many industries after integrating them with internet technology. Nowadays, the community depends more on this technology. We pay bills, shop online, work remotely, etc.
Mohamed Gamal, the founder of Kotobna (which means ‘our books’ in English) has noticed that the publishing industry should be integrated with the internet, too. He launched Kotobna to give writers a chance to publish their books and provide access to readers online.
Mohamed earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Monofeya. Since he was a child, he used to visit his uncle’s local library in Monofeya, a city in Northern Egypt). He became a talented writer and poet.
Mohamed has extensive experience working in local and international companies. He started his career in the IT industry in early 2006 as Web Designer and ended up working in Business Development field. He had a dream of building an online platform where people can access books, stories, poems, educational materials and more.
In 2014, Mohamed quit his job and launched Kotobna. Kotobna is the first self-publishing tool in the MENA region that helps writers to publish and sell their books and helps readers to read and buy books online.
Mohamed with his team have been running Kotobna for three years. They have more than 352 writers, 370 published books, 16,000 active users per month and 23,000 books bought and downloaded. They have also created a mobile app that has been downloaded more than 10,000 times and has more than 5,000 active users.
Kotobna needs to ensure the quality of the books and writers. They follow specific standards to make sure that their community is safe. The readers are the ones who review and report on the books.
‘We are so excited with the progress that we have reached. We introduced a new service, but we have found a huge demand for people to have such a platform that offers all these services,’ says Mohamed
Mohamed and his team won first prize in the MIT Arab competition. They are currently being incubated at the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) in Egypt.
‘TIEC has been a huge support for us. We have received consultation, a small investment and access to facilities,’ says Mohamed.
Kotobna is upgrading by adding a Print On Demand (POD) service, which is a request the reader can put in to get a hard copy of a book. The new service is environmentally-friendly; instead of printing hard copies of thousands of books and spending huge costs on transportation and storage, they will only print on request.
‘We still have the culture of reading printed books. We can’t change this culture in one night; it will take time. That’s why we added the POD option, so the reader can choose whether they want the online copy or the hard copy of the book,’ says Mohamed.
There are still crowdfunding campaigns going on to raise as much money as possible so Kotobna can buy printing equipment. Because not many Egyptians have credit cards, Kotobna creates a prepaid card for readers which they can use to buy Kotobna’s books online.
Mohamed will never give up on his dream. He will continue working with his team in Kotobna to launch the initiative in every Arabian countries. Mohamed is a visionary and talented leader who has already grabbed the attention of many investors.
Article submitted by Mostafa Shahat, the volunteer responsible for Arabic guest bloggers in the MENA region and an entrepreneur who has established one of the most successful youth communities in Egypt, Goal Oriented Learners. Mostafa studied social entrepreneurship in USA and is currently the Middle East & North Africa representative at StudySearch (Nigeria) and the Egypt representative for All Events in City (India). Mostafa is also a reporter at Nudge Sustainability Hub. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his other blog A Syrian’s Success in Egypt and more from his Entrepreneurs in Egypt series.
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