Launched last year, Oniocha is an online bookstore with a twist, in that it allows users to buy, sell, request and swap books, all on one digital marketplace. 

“We have a simple, secure web application that aggregates booksellers, readers, writers, publishers, students and anyone who might ever need a book. It is a very easy-to-use application, and with a few clicks, users can get access to the books they want,” said Deborah Saki, who co-founded Oniocha alongside David Quartey and Elliot Menkah.

“Our vision is to be the lead provider of innovative and technological solutions to the problems in the literary space of Ghana and Africa.”

The startup was founded in response to the multiple difficulties Africans face in getting their hands on books in an efficient and affordable manner.

“Many people have to ship the books they want from overseas bookstores, and this is not a pocket-friendly process. Bookstores and public libraries in Ghana have a very limited and sometimes outdated stock of books. This problem is one that even some universities face, leading to poor exposure and low standard of education,” Saki said.

While competitors include local physical and online bookstores, libraries, and overseas online stores, Oniocha believes it has a “wholesome approach” to tackling the problem, and an advantage in that it is able to cut down costs for the customer by eliminating the overhead shipping costs.

The startup, which has around 1,700 active users on its application and is growing at a rate of 23 per cent each month, has so far facilitated the sale of more than 500 books, and has continental ambitions. For that, however, it will need funding, having been bootstrapped thus far.

“We have been recipients of grant money, from the Ministry of Communication and the World Bank through the Ghana Innovation Hub, and through the support of Impact Hub and partners,” Saki said.

“We are looking to raise US$150,000, and most of this will go into purchasing rights for the distribution of e-books once we implement that functionality. Some of the funds will also go into expanding our workforce and operations, and to facilitate development of our products.”

Securing some of this took a step closer recently after Oniocha was named winner of the Ghanaian leg of the MEST Africa Challenge, putting it in the grand final with a shot of securing US$50,000 in equity investment. Saki said the startup monetises via commissions from third party booksellers and vendors, servicing book requests, and through book sales. 

“We will roll out a subscription service after we fully integrate e-books into our solution,” she said.