(from left) Aparna Hariharan, Archana Rajesh Kumar and Supraja Ramakumar came together to launch Pick2Read Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Three Indian expat women have come together to launch what they say is the UAE’s first online library that rents physical books.

Speaking to Gulf News as the UAE celebrates the ‘Month of Reading’ in March, Aparna Hariharan, Supraja Ramakumar and Archana Rajesh Kumar said they founded ‘Pick2Read,’ an e-commerce library, as a digital detox initiative that offers delivery and pick up options.

“We are like-minded ambitious women whose decades of good friendship and trust laid the foundation to form this strong team,” said Aparna.

The three mothers said the nostalgic memory of travelling beyond time, space and even reality that we have experienced just by flipping through the pages of a book is the spark behind the idea of Pick2Read.

As digital detox initiative, Supraja said their business intends to keep people, especially children, away from unwanted screen time and protect everyone from “the dark side of the web”.

By bringing together the best of both the worlds, Archana said their e-commerce library “embraces the technological development but still helps to stay connected to our roots.”

Library at doorstep

How did the idea of a door step library of physical books crop up at a time online libraries offer e-books at our fingertips?

“As parents, the difficulty that we faced to take time off to make regular library visits was the main reason to start Pick2Read library on an e-commerce platform offering door delivery facility,” said Archana.

However the women did not jump right into it -they took almost 10 months to do research and market analysis to understand the reading needs of the UAE.

In parallel, they started sourcing books of different genres and finalised a software partner. Finally, with an e-commerce license issued by the Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone, they made their dream a reality.

How does it work?

The Pick2Read library works as any other e-commerce platforms, the founders said. Book lovers have to register online on the website of Pick2Read and choose a membership plan. They can sign-in and select the desired books or toys and place their order.

Users can either receive books through door delivery or opt to click and collect from one of the facilities mentioned.

After reading the book, members have to virtually apply for returning the books and can place a new order.

The e-library has an automated tracking system that sends reminders to ensure return of books and toys on time.

The books and toys will be delivered or kept ready for ‘click and collect’ in four days of receiving the order.

How much does it cost?

Explaining the membership plans, Aparna said: “We have varied plans tailored to different reading needs. Our plans are priced based on the duration of the memberships and are as reasonable as Dh20 per month.”

“We have special plans for group memberships. We do have gift cards and we have a referral rewards scheme as well.”

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Their journey

Talking about their journey so far, Archana said: “We started as a small library with 3,000 books and a few members, over a year ago and are happy to have seen the growth in memberships and the volume of collections.”

“We have around 7,500 books in our collection as of date. We do have a good collection of toys including board games, puzzles, educational games etc., for the family. We ensure that there is a constant addition of books and toys to our collection.”

Speaking of their growth, Supraja said: “We are glad to have got the opportunity to collaborate with some of the esteemed institutions and organisations in the UAE.”

“We are looking forward to building more meaningful collaborations with schools, nurseries, institutes and corporates,” added Archana.

With operations currently in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, the trio have plans to expand the boundaries to Abu Dhabi in the near future.

The trio plans to launch ‘Page Turners,’ the reading club of Pick2Read soon.