Rediff reports the launch of Guruji.com, a web search engine focused for Indian markets. The venture is funded by Sequoia Cap India and some angel investors. Reading this article immediately brings up the question if the company is trying to emulate what Baidu.com did in China. Baidu is the leading search engine in China with more than 60% market share, while Google has around 25%. So what were the factors that led to Baidu trashing the seemingly unconquerable behemoth Google in United States?
- The biggest reason: It has always obeyed the censorship laws in China. Google, for a long time maintained its position that information should be free and unrestricted. Turns out they finally gave in thanks to receding market share and have agreed to provide indication when the content is restricted.
- Baidu was founded in 1999 on the eve on Internet burst in United States when Google still wasn’t big.
- It implemented paid search advertisements model before Google in China. So they already had a good revenue model.
Unfortunately, most of these factors do not hold for Guruji.com. Global biggies like Google and Yahoo already have their presence in search engine market in India. There are no major censorship laws in India. Obvious question then is what is the value add that they could provide to users to stand out among the crowd?
From technology point of view, I think they can be following:
- One thing that they are already doing which Google or Yahoo do not provide is local search. Local search is a very useful (and popular in other countries) feature and they could use the early mover advantage here.
- If they can index content from local languages and make it searchable. Reason: As the number of Internet users keeps increasing in urban as well as rural India, more and more players are going to start (or already starting) providing content in local languages. There needs to be a good way to let users input search terms in other languages and provide best results.
- Mobile penetration in India is already huge and is growing at alarmingly high rate. If they provide mobile interface to search the web, they can attract at least 5 times more customers immediately compared to Web only interface.
- If they can target the demographics of the Indian population and serve up their results accordingly. For example according to NYTimes [free registration reqd], analysts say Baidu is playing to a different audience than Western Internet companies because the Chinese are far more interested in entertainment than news, books or car rental rates.
Other than the above features, following factors could also play a role:
- Ecommerce and Search Engine Marketing is still small in India. So potentially if they can innovative other business models?
- This may be far-fetched for Search but still just to speculate: If they could use the concept of “Assisted Internet”? Lot of online players in India these days have offline centers/kiosks where they help people with their services. An example is Shaadi Point by Shaadi.com. This is primarily to cater to the audience that do not have access to Internet at home or have not used computers enough to do things on their own.
We will wait and watch what happens, but more services and competition is always good for consumers!
Update: The Hindu has some more details on the company.