Search engines in different languages, different interfaces

Written by: Madhur

On Oct 25th, 2006

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:

  1. Search engines will start indexing and providing ways to search local languages content as they become more and more popular on the web.
  2. To get mass users to adopt their service in the shorter term, search engines will need to provide alternate interface such as mobile access.

In this post, I bring to light a few services that have taken the first step in doing the above. Note that I am NOT doing a complete review of these services here, I am just highlighting interesting things keeping in mind the above two points.

Vernacular search engines
Raftaar
This is a search engine that indexes Hindi content on the web and provides a way to query Hindi words. It provides two modes of input for entering Hindi words. One way is to enter English characters of how that word would be spelled if it was an English word. Although this is a nice feature to have, not sure how useful it will be in reality because if someone can figure out the English spelling for a word, they most probably will know enough English to understand the content in English itself, unless they are specifically looking for Hindi content. The other way to enter Hindi queries is using the Hindi typepad that is provided on the homepage. These modes may be slow to work with right now, but when Hindi content on the web really increases that much, Hindi keyboards will be more popular after which mode of input will not be a problem. Other than regular web search features, one of the useful things that I think they can do to really improve the search experience is smartly include nearby words in search (words that are spelled very similar, because in Hindi spellings can be tricky). Interesting to know that they are already getting about 5000 hits per day, more details here.

Bhramara
This search engine indexes local language content in Hindi and Kannada. The website mentions that documents that it indexes are manually reviewed to provide the best “seek” experience if you want to browse pages from India. I think while this is a good proof of concept, it will be difficult to scale to a full fledged web search (which is not their plan according to the About section of their site)

PDSText
provides a wrapper over Google which I think is fun just to try out. It is interesting to see that Google already has local languages in their index. Although providing search results for real world queries requires much more work than that.

Search engine with alternate interfaces
Onyomo is a local search engine. You can search for places to eat, restaurants, hotels, florists, etc. More about the search later, but they have recently introduced SMS search where you can sms your query and they sms back the search results. This is definetely a great start for providing service on mobile interface.

JustDial is a service where the users can dial in a number and ask their query and get answers to that for for free. They recently raised funding from SAIF parterners, you can read more here. Their approach of building a strong user base is quite interesting. As of today when Internet penetration hasn’t reached mass population (only 10 million power users and around 2 million broadband connections), they are acquiring users with access to phone/mobile. Hopefully a large part of their phone user base will convert to web interface also in the future if their brand becomes associated with local search.

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Entry Filed under: ecommerce,search

4 Responses

  1. 1. IndianPad said on October 25th, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    Search engines in different languages, different interfaces…

    Search engines in different languages, different interfaces posted at IndianPad.com…

  2. 2. Songs Search said on October 25th, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    There are also other search engines for songs, MP3 and lyrics like sangeetix.com and Indian web content like guruji.com. Besides these, Yahoo and Google are trying to get a better local presence.

  3. 3. Ravi Venkatraman said on October 28th, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    We provide search results using google API .
    We have search interface for the following Indian Languages.
    Bengali , Gujarati, Hindi , Kannada, Malayalam , Marathi, Oriya , Gurmukhi , Tamil , Telugu .
    We are looking into additional Interfaces, similar to http://www.shabdkosh.com/ – Keyboard

  4. 4. Sameer Shisodia said on March 20th, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I guess you’ve started seeing the JustDial ads by now. This has been launched on Ziva’s (http://www.zivaoftware.com) search platform, and really neat local data from JD.

    Our own service, Zook (http://zook.in), though with some overlap, is not a local service per se, and has a strong leisure and entertainment flavour to it, including being probably the first place you can search for mobile download content from across content providers!

    Do let us know what we can add to Zook. Its available across 6 cities on wap as well as SMS.

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