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Children readers’ picture book sharing platform “IBoNiao” has completed a Series Pre-A funding of 1 billion RMB, with Zhen Fund and Li Yuan Capital. Founder and CEO Hu Di Jun told KrASIA’s parent company 36Kr that, the funds will be utilized for warehouse expansion, R&D and product development. They will be focusing on content creation to create a more integrated education platform for children. Prior to this funding, the company had received Angel funds of 5 million RMB from Hua Dan and Li Yuan.
IBoNiao launched their services in November 2017. They operate like a library, lending children’s books through their WeChat mini program, WeChat official account, their own app and Alipay.
Currently, the Chinese children’s’ readers market is between 30 and 50 billion RMB, with numbers still rising. Although children in the first and second tier cities have the habit of reading, those in lower-tier cities tend to read less. On average, children in China read less than 10 books a year, much fewer than their Western counterparts who read between 50 and 100 books. In the next 5 to 10 years, this market will expand at least 5 times and IBoNiao believes that book rental will be one of the trends in the future.
In the new sharing economy, books are one of those products that people are willing to share. This market covers a wide target market with high traction. However, there could be challenges such as hygiene. The market may also take time to adjust to the new model.
Hu pointed out that IBoNiao’s intention is not to replace bookstores but to provide customers with a more affordable option. The platform offers annually, monthly and one-time plans, giving users flexible options according to their reading habits.
IBoNiao partners with publishers, distributors and second-hand booksellers to start the book-sharing service in August. IBoNiao understands that one of the main concerns among users is logistics fee: people are not willing to pay additional transportation fee for a book. Hence, to encourage first-time users, IBoNiao provides logistics for free. Furthermore, users can return the books for free if the book is not in good condition.
IBoNiao will expand its 2000 square metres warehouse to 5000 square metres. According to them, they have 15,000 books, reached 200,000 users and 20,000 paying members with about 1000 daily transactions. The company aims to achieve 1 million users by the end of 2018.
Speaking of future developments, Hu has a clearer direction of IBoNiao: providing efficient transactions and logistics on top of quality content and service to its customers and eventually create a one-stop platform for children books.
80% of their customers are from first-tier cities such as Beijing and ShangHai. The platform provides not only children books, it also offers books on parenting and education. Their next project is to launch new products and services such as parenting courses, audio books and electronic products.
Hu highlighted that parents will be provided with different content according to their children’s age group. Hu wants to make his startup into ByteDance (Chinese media and content company) for parents, providing content that suits different needs. Hu also pointed out that the content market is already very competitive and thus wanted to focus is on delivery and service efficiency.
IBoNiao has about 30 employees in Hangzhou, and a few employees, including Hu, were from Alibaba with experience in Internet operations.