Shahrukh Karim, a third-semester student of Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST), would find it difficult to travel all the way to Nilkhet from his home in Niketon every three months to buy books.
"If I took five courses in a semester I would usually have to buy around 10 books every three months," said Shahrukh.
But then one day Shahrukh found out about a website named Booktionary, run by a group of alumni of his own university, where he could order all the books he needed during every semester.
"What's more, you didn't have to haggle for prices like you have to do at Nilkhet. The prices were fairly reasonable."
Booktionary is not just a platform where you buy new and used books, but once students like Shahrukh are done with the semester, they can sell the books back to Booktionary. Students studying under the semester system usually get around seven months to sell their books back while those studying under academic year systems get a little longer.
Booktionary has become popular with a lot of university students in the country. There are now more than 100,000 academic books of various subjects on the platform. Though Booktionary started with academic books, they now sell novels as well. They also have a stationery section, although it is yet to become popular among students.
Booktionary at present mostly delivers in Dhaka and Savar (for Jahangirnagar University students), but they have recently expanded to Noakhali. They also plan to deliver in Rajshahi soon.
Every month they sell books worth two to three lakh Taka.
The platform was recently selected for Banglalink's IT Incubator 3.0 programme. After completing three rounds, Booktionary is among the last seven teams who are being groomed by Banglalink. If the idea sustains, they may go into partnership with them.
The idea of setting up Booktionary first came to a group of students sitting at a tea stall beside AUST.
Mehedi Hasan Noyon, one of the founders and currently chief executive officer of Booktionary, said they got the idea when they were discussing the fate of their old books after one of their final exams.
The idea resonated with them all, and five enthusiastic young men gathered all their money to set up a web portal named Bookseller.com with Tk25,000 as capital.
The idea was not just to sell old books, they offered to save students the hassle of taking a trip to Nilkhet, said Noyon.
During the initial stage of their business, they went from class to class at their university to inform students about their services. The response they got was overwhelming.
It was all new for the young entrepreneurs – going to suppliers and publishers to convince them to market books through the website and create a niche market in a field that already has a lot of competition.
They started delivering books on hired vans. Within a month, their capital rose to Tk3 lakhs.
The business ran well for two years and they graduated from university by this time. It was time for them to look for decent jobs.
Unfortunately, the five friends could not agree on how to continue this business after they graduated, so they shut-down Bookseller.com.
But Noyon realised that once you get a taste for business, you cannot do anything else. After laying low for six months in 2017, he approached his friend Aqib Salehin (who had been a part of it from the beginning) again.
They decided to revive their business, and this is when bookseller.com became Booktionary.
Noyon said, "It was hard to make the suppliers understand that we were here to sell books, not to publish them. Once they agreed, the work became easier."
Booktionary has books on literature and theory alongside curriculum-based books. They have BCS guides and test papers too.
This time they also upgraded their website.
They re-organised it so the customers could enter the name of their university, department and semester and receive a list of recommended books from the site.
Besides AUST, right now, you will find books for a few departments of Jaganath University and Jahangirnagar University as well.
Currently, Booktionary has ten employees. But it aspires to be a big platform for Fine Arts students. In fact, their logo mentions books, stationery items and handicraft as their products.
Though they started online, they also plan to enter the offline market. They want to create book hubs in small towns outside Dhaka.