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
I myself being a software professional working in the field of search, have special interest in the technology and so I have been actively following and participating in various discussions about what could it mean for Indian internet industry. Obviously there has been a lot of speculation whether it will replace Google in India, or just add to the list of previous attempts like byindia.com, khoj.com etc, or they will rule Local search. In this post I summarize what they are doing and what direction they could possibly go. The timing could not be better as just today there was an interview with Anurag Dod (the CEO of Guruji.com) on Podtech India, where he talks a bit about their plans that confirms what I wrote in the first post about Guruji.com about indexing local languages.
- I do NOT think they compete head to head with Google India in WEB search. Their homepage has only two tabs “India” and “Local”. They are optimized to support search for Indian content, which is not always what Indian searchers are looking for. For example, there may be a student who wants to search for the latest trends in their research area and in that case a localized search engine will be of little benefit.
- I like to think of them more as “Local” search engine, which I think is a big opportunity. Local search in two ways:
- Local search at India level: If you wanted to find out about the latest happenings about Bollywood or research projects happening in Indian Universities, etc. Search results rankings can be tweaked to improve the relevance based on various factors like whether the result is coming from a site containing mostly Indian content, what people in India generally like etc. One interesting scenario is for a query like “Taj Mahal”, you may not necessarily get the best result from an Indian or India related site. You may find the best info on Taj Mahal from wikipedia (which is predominantly not an Indian or Indian content related site), so should the India specific search engine include that result or not?
- Local search at individual city level: If you wanted to find out what are the local Thai restaurants in your area, the max you could find today is the yellow page listings from different sites. This is where Guruji.com can help by providing the information in a much richer format. It can provide listings (like it does currently), maps, the restaurant websites, sites talking about reviews, etc. One notable player in this area is Onyomo (more on this later)
- Probably more important feature is support for searching local language content. I wrote about this on my earlier post and Anurag confirms this in the interview. India has at least 5-6 major languages used by a non-trivial number of people (there is no English newspaper in the list of top 10 daily newspapers in India) and it is only a matter of time that there will be more and more sites hosting content in these languages. Currently Google/Yahoo do not support that and having this will position Guruji in a unique position, so they can search all Indian content regardless of the language.
The bottomline is that it will take some time for the verdict to be out. There is no doubt that there is a lot of potential and work to be done in the Local search area. I also think now that local search is becoming common in India, Google/Yahoo/MSN will try to make an entry and that’s when things will really start getting heated up. Love to hear your comments/thoughts here.