What you need to know:
- To look for a book on Laibo, you tap the ‘search’ icon which will give you the price, title and other details.
- Once you select the book, you call the owner by pressing the yellow ‘call’ button, negotiate the price of the book and agree on how the book will get to you.
- The seller and the buyer can agree to meet at a particular location or they can arrange to have it delivered by a rider. To post a book for sale or exchange, a fee of Sh20 is charged.
At 24, Kibet Oranja has created an app where avid readers, scholars and parents can find books of their choice. They can also exchange books or purchase them.
In developing the App named ‘Laibo’ (short for library), Kibet’s aim was to create a platform for people to sell and exchange books that they no longer need. He also wanted to assist parents who are unable to afford buying new school books.
“I wanted to focus primarily on education because knowledge and education are always going to be important considerations in any developing society,” he explains. He created Laibo during the Covid-19 pandemic when several families were struggling to make ends meet.
“Students were greatly affected. Their learning schedules were disrupted by school closures, lockdowns and curfews. Before the dust settled, Kenyans were hit by sharp increases in many commodities including fuel. These tough circumstances inspired Kibet to develop the app.
“I hope the platform will cushion students and their parents against the hard economic times by helping them get books more affordably. The money they save can be directed to other needs,” he says.
To look for a book on Laibo, you tap the ‘search’ icon which will give you the price, title and other details. Once you select the book, you call the owner by pressing the yellow ‘call’ button, negotiate the price of the book and agree on how the book will get to you. The seller and the buyer can agree to meet at a particular location or they can arrange to have it delivered by a rider. To post a book for sale or exchange, a fee of Sh20 is charged.
Kibet’s clientele cuts across different backgrounds, including university students and people who are working. Basically, anyone looking to dispose of their books.
As a self-taught ICT innovator, Kibet dropped out of a Bachelor of Arts in illustration course at the University of Edinburgh in May 2018, eight months after enrolling. This decision, he says, presented him with an opportunity to pursue his passion.
“At Edinburgh, I would skip classes and stay in my apartment experimenting with various software development apps like Xcode,” he says.
When he returned to Kenya, he used the Covid-19 lockdown period to further hone his ICT skills. This is how he learnt how to create his own app.
During his primary and secondary school at St Mary’s School, Nairobi and St Andrew’s Turi in Nakuru County, Kibet says he was awarded for excellent performance in art and sports.
“By the end of high school I had not settled on a specific course, and my teachers and parents encouraged me to study illustration. I enrolled and went to study in a foreign country, but I didn’t stay through to the end. I am not sure whether the course was unsuitable for me or if I was unserious, but I dropped out and I had to do something to redeem myself. That’s why I chose to pursue ICT and tech,” he explains.
By 2021 Kibet had developed the app, which is currently active on the Google Playstore. He says the process of making the product available to the public was not easy.
“Only a few people genuinely supported me. They include my business partner George Kiplagat, with whom I exchanged ideas. I felt as if I was drowning, and I was always broke and sometimes on fuliza. I felt as if I losing the battle. Any time I would speak to people about my app, they would say the same thing. ‘I hope it goes well’ and ‘Wow, this is really incredible!’ They said this out of politeness, but the conversations never progressed beyond that. I could sense some envy from those who saw the potential in my idea,” he says.
Seeing his idea manifesting nine months after inception was incredibly exciting. “Four months before launching Laibo, I researched and sought advice from at least 30 people including app designers, software developers, technology entrepreneurs, parents and students. When a number of them said they would be happy to use the app, I knew it was time to make it public.”
Kibet states that Laibo is already a success, despite the fact that it was launched just four months ago. He credits this to working with the right team and being patient.
“Laibo is still in the start-up phase and far from reaching its peak, but we are making encouraging progress. Rome was not build in a day. Creating awareness and partnering with the right advertisers will be important for its success,” Kibet says.
Creating an app is never a conclusive job. The creator is required to always keep an eye on the market and make improvements to the app.
“Although I have not started making a living out of it, I see Laibo as my saving grace,” Kibet says. His word of encouragement to fellow young people?
“The youth are lucky to be born in a robust technological era. They have access to a huge audience. If your service is competitive enough, you can win big. But just as with everything else in life, there is an element of luck in it, and your efforts must be channeled effectively for you to survive and make profit.”