Eman Hylooz

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Finalist 2015 for the Middle East & North Africa

Eman Hylooz

Abjjad, JORDAN
Provides an online and mobile social network for readers, authors and publishers of Arabic literature.
Being an avid reader herself, Eman Hylooz, 31, deplored the absence of an online database of Arabic books. She has a background in computer science and had been working in software development prior to launching the first version of Abjjad in 2012.
A gap between readership and publishers
Eman was introduced to Arabic literature by her brother during her childhood years in Jordan. At school, she had mainly been taught English-language literature. However while searching for Arabic literature, she discovered there was no online book catalogue for this genre nor any online reading lists and book reviews. “My brother told me “this is really good, this is really beautiful” and overnight I was reading a lot of books in Arabic. I loved it but I was surprised. Why did I need my brother to tell me about it? I couldn’t find anything online.” Eman explains the absence of such a platform is due to the lack of digital marketing for Arabic books. Readers are often Internet users whereas most publishing houses are offline. “There is a huge gap between the reader, the books and the publisher. So we wanted to create this one platform that combines all the readers, the publishers, the authors and the books in one place.”
“I love the community I’m building. I like getting to know them. Many of them have become really close friends.”
“Aside from being the founder of Abjjad, I used it heavily when I started it to get to know the community, to get to meet the readers. As a side effect, my taste in reading became much more mature. The way that I read, the way that I really understand and reflect this reading on my life has been different.”
Socialising the reading experience
Abjjad – which is the first four letters of the original Arabic alphabet – is an Arabic literature catalogue available via the Internet and a mobile application. The platform allows users to share their favourite publications through reviews and ratings, writers can meet their fan base and publishers have the opportunity to boost their digital marketing. For the last 2 years, Abjjad has created a community of books lovers now reaching 95,000 registered members. In the future, the company hopes to monetise its service through e-book sales. In this way, Abjjad wants to help publishers in the fight against piracy.
130,000
“We have created a book catalogue of 130,000 Arabic book titles.”
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Crowdfunding
During her previous career in software marketing, Eman applied to Oasis 500, one of the main business incubators in the MENA region. “I took a course on how to move my idea from only an idea to a real mature business model. Being in an incubator was really a big help because they invested in the idea before even seeing anything. They gave us seed investment.” Eman then decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to enable her to hire staff. “It was something really new in the Middle East and there was only one success story in the whole region. So I took the risk. I had only 80 days to close my round and within this time I was overfunded by 137%.” The company now has 3 full time employees and hires more than 15 freelancers all over the world.