Guruji.com: Baidu of India?

Written by: Madhur

On Oct 12th, 2006

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.

Sphere: Related Content

Entry Filed under: ecommerce, news, search

26 Responses

  1. 1. IndianPad said on October 12th, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    Guruji.com: Baidu of India?…

    Guruji.com: Baidu of India? posted at IndianPad.com…

  2. 2. PutVote.com said on October 12th, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    Guruji.com: Baidu of India?…

    A new web search engine called guruji.com has launched in India. Its funded by Sequioa Cap and some angel investors. Can it become the Baidu of India and beat Google?…

  3. 3. Santosh said on October 12th, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    Folks,
    this is what I wrote in ContentSutra..sharing for your audience here.
    ……………
    I think comparing every new innovation vis-à-vis with Google is not encouraging. We also need to keep in mind that Google came much later as path-breaking search engine replacing the older ones .AltaVista, etc.

    Therefore we can’t assumer guruji or yahoo or any new other startup can’t introduce persuasive breakthrough. YouTube is a perfect example of how it did better than what Google did with Video.
    The Mantra for new age technology entrepreneurs in India should be keep trying and not get bogged down by Google or MS or any established player.

  4. 4. Madhur said on October 13th, 2006 at 1:26 am

    Santosh, I agree with you on this, which is exactly why I have done an analysis and suggested what these guys can do better to differentiate from the rest of the crowd (including the biggies like Yahoo and Google.)

  5. 5. Ramlal said on October 13th, 2006 at 2:15 am

    Madhur,
    I agree with some of the points you make. One more reason I think Baidu worked was that it provided Chinese (language) content, not necessarily China (country) content. That is what separates a search engine from a classifieds site. Whereas Guruji claims to be India-specific. I believe it might be tough to define that.

    On a lighter note, see what you get when you search for “guruji”

  6. 6. Kamla said on October 13th, 2006 at 2:57 am

    Madhur:

    There is only one official language in China: Mandarin and many loosely related dialects. But, the script is Mandarin.

    In India we have a string of languages with English being the default language of the Internet. Can Guruji be the Baidu of India? Is Baidu a national search engine or a local search engine?

    Kamla

  7. 7. Madhur said on October 13th, 2006 at 3:09 am

    Baidu is a national search engine in China.
    It will certainly be very difficult task for Guruji to index all local languages but they can always prioritize based on the content available in each language (other than English) and accordingly include that in their index.

  8. 8. Punit Pandey said on October 13th, 2006 at 6:30 am

    Madhur, good information. Reading your post, though, it looks to me that chances of Guruji’s success is very poor.

    – Punit

  9. 9. DesiPundit » Archives » Guruji.com: Baidu of India? said on October 13th, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    [...] Madhur Khandelwal at iLeher wonders if the recently launched Guruji.com becomes the Baidu of India giving Google a run for its money. But there are important differences that should be noted before making comparisons. [...]

  10. 10. Madhur said on October 13th, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Punit, these are just my thoughts. Sequoia and others have invested in it, so who knows what other potential they saw, which is exactly the reason I am so interested how this develops.

  11. 11. vivek garg said on October 13th, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    it would be interesting to compare google,yahoo or live search localized offerings with guruji.

    I am not sure how a localized google for india treats indian websites compared to guruji. If these pages are ranked highest and do not get polluted by global relevance than it might offer similar results to end user.

    Tweaking with relevance in search result and keeping them extremely local can create local tabloid search engine that can perform better than global news papers search engines.

    I think this one will need sometime before the jury gets out as seach engine needs to scale out gradually.

  12. 12. VentureBeat » Roundup: MetroFi connects Foster City, GDrive leak, Cisco’s triple threat said on October 14th, 2006 at 7:13 am

    [...] New search engine, Guruji, has chance in mobile and local languages — One analyst questions whether the new search engine in India, Guruji, backed by Sequoia, really has a chance to succeed like Baidu did in China, because Google and Yahoo are already so dominant. See our wire story here on Sequoia’s investment. (If you are not getting VentureBeat’s wire stories, remember, you can subscribe to them separately via the RSS on the left side of the homepage, or you can just go read the wire on the left of homepage). Tagged Cisco, google, metrofi, YouTube, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen VentureBeat Community [...]

  13. 13. Santosh said on October 14th, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Madhur:

    “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.”

    How do you define “local search”? I would like to understand how Google’s “search pages from India” are different?

    - Santosh

  14. 14. Mihir Sambhus said on October 14th, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Given the venture backing Guruji got, indeed it has a lot of press and traction behind it. They will want to sustain this traction going forward.

    There are some unique challenges for Guruji in India though specifically languages, and building local affinity, in the search field. My thoughts on the topic are at http://www.desihub.com/blogs/page/mihir/?anchor=desi_search_guruji_engine_gets

    I believe though Guruji can overcome those challenges to gain a foothold in India.

  15. 15. Madhur said on October 14th, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Santosh,
    What I mean by “local” search is the following:
    If you go to guruji.com and click on local tab and then search for “pizza bangalore” then the results that you get back are not web pages but they are kind of directory listings. On the other hand you try the same search on Google with “search pages from India” option, you will get web pages as results, just that those pages from India.

  16. 16. Vaibhav Domkundwar - india 2.0 said on October 21st, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Madhur:

    Totally agree with you. I posted a few more thoughts on this here: http://blog.indiagoes.com/?p=36 and also on the recent post of Amit on webyantra. (thats how I came to your blog)

    I am surprised how so many bloggers are overlooking the fundamental problems of context search and more importantly overlooking the severe lack of local content to search across.

    Cheers,
    -Vaibhav

  17. 17. Shalin Shekhar Mangar said on October 22nd, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Perhaps you’re not aware of our local search service called Onyomo. We have recently revamped our site and also launched a SMS Search service which is available in Delhi/NCR and Bangalore at present. You can find more information at:
    http://www.onyomo.com/sms

  18. 18. iLeher » More on Guruji.com - Web search or Local search?- All about Internet industry in India said on October 22nd, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    [...] I first wrote about Guruji.com the day of the press release on Oct 12th. As expected, there has been a lot of news all over the media and quite a lot of comments/discussions here on iLeher because: 1. It drew comparisons with the media and investors’ darling Google 2. Search is hot (all Internet users today search because of the information overload on the web, and every searcher is unknowingly a potential customer) 3. They are funded by Sequoia - one of the most successful VC firms in Silicon Valley 4. They have a smart and experienced team on board [...]

  19. 19. iLeher » Search engines in different languages, different interfaces- All about Internet industry in India said on October 25th, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    [...] Search engines seem to be the flavor of this festive season in India. There has been quite a bit of discussion on local search engines in the last couple of weeks with the launch of Guruji.com. We covered that in enough details here and here. Two important things came out of the discussions: [...]

  20. 20. iLeher » Exclusive interview with CEO of Guruji.com - All about Internet industry in India said on November 9th, 2006 at 9:29 am

    [...] I wrote about Guruji.com on the very first day of their press release and then followed up with another post clarifying on what they are doing. My initial response was skeptic as I didn’t quite get what their value proposition was. Local search definitely sounded like an opportunity but that clearly wasn’t their main (or only) focus. In the Indian content search area, Google.co.in already seemed to be doing a good enough job. I am sure some of you would have got similar doubts, but hey, they are backed by Sequoia and generated quite a bit of buzz in the media. I had a chat with Anurag Dod, their CEO and asked a few questions to clarify some of the doubts. [...]

  21. 21. iLeher » Offline presence- All about Internet industry in India said on December 18th, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    [...] I’ve referred to this multiple times in the past. Off the top of my head, here and here. I think offline presence is very very important to build a large user base esp. if the service is targeted towards general masses (as opposed to say social networking site that is targeted towards teen and youth demographics) Every Internet usage report that comes out, we get to see the same thing coming out - Internet penetration is still limited to bigger cities, main mode of access is still not home - more than 50% of the Internet usage is seen from cyber cafes, offices, schools. [...]

  22. 22. Search Engine Marketing India said on February 5th, 2007 at 7:06 am

    I hope gurji.com will be one of the well known Search engine Link GOOGLE, Yahoo, & MSN.I is very great to see that GURUJI is creating its Identity and will be one of the well know search Engine of India.

  23. 23. Manik das said on February 27th, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Hi i strongly believe guruji.com will become one of indias best search engine ever

    and i got afriend who works for a Public relation firm (handling guruji)said thr is much to wait for as some unique features are comming by march end

  24. 24. Purnendu Singh Chauhan said on July 5th, 2007 at 5:56 am

    Well…

    I would disagree…

    Two reasons

    1. Baidu became popular because of two reason - 1. Chinese are not well conversant in English 2. Chineses Government opposition to Google.

    2. Guruji.com fails because its a search engine against Google and in the same language. And there are no govt. restrictions here for Google.

    So I would say that the comparison is inappropriate.

    Regards

    Purnendu
    http://www.younguttaranchal.com

  25. 25. iLeher » India Internet - status check Catching the Internet Wave in India said on July 17th, 2007 at 7:15 am

    [...] Search engines - One of the popular category of sites. This category pretty much reflects the global trends in terms of the popularity of search engines. (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask). The interesting thing to note here is that there is no Indian company in the list. Given the variety of different cultures and languages in India, one might think local players might have an edge if they really tried. Currently though, most of the Internet population is English, but this is certainly going to change as the penetration increases. If Chinese search engine Baidu is anything to go by, there is certainly room for a local player in India too. And hey, its not like no one is trying. But frankly, other than Guruji, no one seems to be anywhere close to the standards of the big global players. We have talked about Guruji here and here, let’s see how they progress in the coming years. [...]

  26. 26. Sourav Mukherjee said on August 28th, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Good job Guruji guys…

    Indias first search engine is there. But it needs rapid advertising and self crawling. Many websites still not appear in it.

    Sourav Mukherjee
    Travel Monitor India

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