The idea for Iqraaly came to computer scientist Abdelrahman Wahba at the end of 2010, when he discovered his love of English-language audiobooks. They helped him pass the time on the long commute through Cairo. Together with two friends, he founded Iqraaly in order to give Egyptian commuters, housewives abnd the blind easy access to current articles and news. Unlike the government-friendly media, particularly the radio, the articles are intended to cover a broad spectrum of opinion and make more Arab-language content accessible to the general public. Iqraaly now also offers a range of audiobooks.
After finding a local investor, they were able to make the service available as a free app, which as of 2015 has been downloaded 250,000 times. The company's 22-strong workforce produces 5,000-8,000 minutes of content per month, which is regularly heard by two million people.
Iqraaly has good marketing and a successful Google Ads, Facebook, and Twitter campaign to thank for the wide reach of its service. Additionally, the app enjoys significant demand on the bustling highways and public transport of Cairo. Another important target group are the roughly one million vision-impaired Egyptians (Iqraaly works together with the national blindness association). However, Egyptian users are (still) unwilling to pay for such a service.
Accordingly, financing for the platform has been hard to mobilise, even though Iqraaly is one of the few Egyptian digital social businesses that has successfully managed to secure a third round of funding. A sustainable business model, however, is not yet foreseeable. The attempt to earn money with audio advertisements, in any case, has not yet brought in enough income.
We discovered this case through our Lab Around the World research trip.