For Vimal Ramaka, there’s no business like the book business.
The UPEI graduate was one of the founders of the web app, Bazr, launched at the university last year, which created a virtual marketplace for students to sell and purchase used books.
It was an app that caught on. Ramaka said about 3,000 UPEI students, or about 75 per cent of the enrolled students, created a profile on the app.
With the potential to save students thousands of dollars, the app is now set to launch in 14 other schools this September, including some prestigious universities like Princeton, Rutgers, Concordia, McGill and Dalhousie.
“It’s been amazing. I did not expect it to grow the way it did,” said Ramaka. “It is definitely exciting.”
In addition to being in more schools, the app now has more to offer. Students can now buy and sell anything on the app that relates to campus life, including TVs, laptops or even furniture.
“We started this for UPEI and expected just UPEI students to use it. They loved it so much we thought why not take it to other universities and show that folks from smaller universities can also build and do great things.”
The app is also beginning to partner with local businesses to provide items like clothing, food and event tickets at discounted student rates while also advertising job postings. The growth has necessitated Ramaka to bring on about 15 employees.
As a UPEI graduate, Ramaka knows the burden of having to pay for all of those items while studying.
“And I’m very, very, extremely happy that I’m getting to solve a problem for others that I myself faced as a student,” said Ramaka. “It’s a feeling I can’t sum up in words.”
Ramaka previously managed two popular Facebook pages for UPEI used books that saw more than 5,000 combined users.
Seeing a demand, Ramaka decided to implement the idea into an app. He and a fellow UPEI graduate challenged themselves to a 48-hour “hackathon” last year where he coded the base of the app in a single weekend.
The application was then launched that Monday for UPEI and within a day saw more than 200 users and 5,000 page views.
With many tech start-ups originating in larger universities and then spreading to smaller schools, Vimal said he was happy to bring something based in UPEI to other universities.
“We started this for UPEI and expected just UPEI students to use it. They loved it so much we thought why not take it to other universities and show that folks from smaller universities can also build and do great things,” said Ramaka.
“You don’t have to go to an Ivy League school to build the next tech start-up.”
Vimal noted that any local businesses near universities that Bazr is situated wish to partner they can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.