Headquartered in Stockholm, Kitab Sawti has since 2016 been working the Arab audiobook market, largely unnoticed by the outside world.
It’s not alone – Dhad, Booklava and of course Storytel Arabia are among its rivals for the affections of Arab audiobook lovers, but it’s a telling point that whereas Storytel is expecting to hit the magical one million subscriber mark across all its markets by the end of this year. Kitab Sawti reportedly already has over 1 million registered users.
This past week comes news that Amazon has finally launched in the Arab markets, turning its Souq operation in the United Arab Emirates into Amazon AE, but as noted here at TNPS, books in any format were at best an afterthought.
Last autumn Kitab Sawti picked up new funding from former Bonnier CEO Jacob Dalborg, and that on top of $1.1 million from Northzone the same year.
But this time its Bonnier itself that is investing in Kitab Sawti.
A total of $6 million is being pushed into the company from a mixed bag of funding houses including Northzone, Abdulla Elyas, Paltel Group, Kaaf Investments and Bonnier Ventures.
The latter is particularly significant as Bonnier Venture is part of the Bonnier group that also owns the European audiobook outfit Bookbeat, giving Bonnier a potential backdoor into the Arab audiobook market to compete with Storytel without the need to set up shop in the Middle East.
Kitab Sawti CEO and founder Sebastian Bond said,
We have witnessed growing consumption of our content over the past period, with more than 1 million registered users and a 20 percent 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.
A report in DI Digital (via Svensk Bokhandel) adds that Kitab Sawti now offers 2,000 titles and quotes Bond as saying that when Kitab Sawti reaches 6% market penetration (the current Swedish audiobook penetration) as Storytel has in Sweden it will have 24 million subscribers.
Kitab Sawti is known to have offices in Stockholm, Dubai and Cairo, and some reports also say in Palestine and London.
I’ll try clarify that and update this post.