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Nuria: Award-winning bookstore where ladies can get sanitary pads for free

In Summary

  • NURIA won the ‘Best Online Bookstore Award’ in 2021 Kenya e-commerce Awards.
  • Founder Abdullahi Bulle is also a philanthropist. Ladies can pick sanitary pads – for free.

Every bookworm in this town knows Abdullahi Bulle.

He operates from a small cubicle at The One, Moi Avenue, perpetually cheerful, serving an ever-bulging clientele of book lovers.

His store is known as Nuria. It is distinct among the rows of clothing stalls, unhurried and composed. The bookstore is a veritable repository for bios and classics, fiction and fantasy, and detective.

Mention a title and Nuria more often than not has it in stock. If not, “can I deliver it in the course of the day please,” he poses, a man debunking the notion that Kenyans don’t read.

TV47 Digital paid the 37-year-old book-preneur a visit recently, while collecting copies of Chip and Dan Heath’s Made To Stick. Nuria is neat. Books are stacked on small shelves, and piled in storeys.

Full-Hearted Service

Abdullahi seats in a little den just inside the door facing the books. It is from here that he provides food for minds, in the old-fashioned style of quiet full-hearted service.

He has seen some of his clients flower into writers, newspaper columnists, content creators, or climb the rungs of professional ladder – through voracious reading. He takes modest pride in that.

Nuria book store
Dr. Mordecai Ogada (right) and John Mbaria, authors of “The Big Conservation Lie” pose with a reader at NURIA bookstore Nairobi where the signing ceremony was held. PHOTO/COURTESY

NURIA; The Genesis

The entrepreneur morphed from a banker to a book seller through his love for page-turners and turning pages (literally and metaphorically). In 2015, while working at Chase Bank, he occasionally imported books for his personal collection. Friends and colleagues borrowed the page turners and this birthed a business idea.

The idea was for an online bookstore. In December, 2015, he created a Facebook page and called it Nuria. The word is derived from Nuru, Swahili word for “light”. It dovetailed with his mission, which is, to be the light that promotes a reading culture in the country.

Abdullahi has been operating since 2016. He imports books mainly from the UK and the USA.

Business was slow at the start, but with his banking job (he closed the employment chapter in August, 2018), and other side hustles in the automotive industry, he pressed on.

Nuria bookstore TV47
Nuria Bookstore at The One Building, Moi Avenue. RIGHT: The award won by the bookstore this year. PHOTOS/COURTESY

With time, he built a portfolio of book lovers who now rely on NURIA for nourishment. The clientele -aged 24 to 50 years- mostly read fiction.Cookbooks are the least popular, he says.

When the country was put under lockdown owing to the corona virus pandemic, order spike. “People were idle. They had time to read and watch Netflix,” he says.

Have A Pad- Free

“The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with,” writes Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, “have a profound effect on who we are.”

It is Abdullahi’s favourite book. And in this nugget of wisdom lies the idea behind the philanthropic arm of Nuria.

In February 2020, he run into a student tugging heavy luggage on her way back to boarding school. Upon inquiry, she told him he couldn’t afford to pay KSh50 to handyman as she was trying to save money for sanitary towels. The interaction had a profound effect on who Abdullahi is.

He started offering free-sanitary pads to any lady in need who walks into Nuria. After rolling out this philanthropic initiative, friends and clients chipped in. He has extended the philanthropy to low-income estates in Nairobi.

His success has not gone unnoticed. This year, Nuria was named the ‘Best Online Book Store’ in the Kenya E-Commerce Awards by Vibrant Digital.

Abdullahi holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Africa Nazarene University. He says he is contemplating pursuing a piloting course.


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