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 (Update: added conclusion at the end - due to some technical snag, missed adding this when first posted the article)
What is your biggest value proposition?
We want to be the one stop shop for anyone search anything related to India. Be it India related content or Indian city specific data. “Think India - Think Guruji”. This access to any type of information from one search box will provide a significant value add for the users.
On the web, where do you find the most relevant “India” specific content? Does this mean data from sites hosted in India or sites with .in or .co.in extension or something else?
We have a technology that classifies Indian content as it looks a web pages. Based on this technology we decide if the page is Indian or not (in which case we do not include them in our index). Our web crawl is focused to get only Indian content and the premise is that any good Indian content anywhere will be linked from the initial set that we start with (and this set keeps on changing as our team keeps modifying that). As a result we are able to index the most relevant Indian content from the web with less resources and refresh the data frequently.
How do you differentiate from Google/Yahoo/MSN India search?
One clear difference is that none of them provide local city data. Another thing is that when you search for Indian content on Google.co.in, you get some relevant results on “web search” and some relevant results on “pages from India”. Also you get different and maybe relevant results when you search from Google.com by appending your search with “india” keyword. As a result, users are confused as to what is the best way to search for Indian content and this where Guruji is different. You can search for anything India related from one search box without any confusion.
Don’t you think Google can realize this problem and take actions to fix this confusing experience of searching Indian content?
We definitely cannot discount Google as they are big and smart, but we will have the early mover advantage which will keep users coming back to our site.
How will you start building user base considering that Google already has a strong foothold in search in India?
As we keep on adding more features for India specific searches, there will be more and more reasons for people to switch. Also another major point is that currently the Indian Internet population stands at roughly 30 million and is expected to increase to 100+ million in the coming few years. We plan to go after these new users who are going to come online as well, which is going to be very important for increasing the search share.
Do you plan to support searching for regional language content on the web?
Yes, as the number of Internet users increase there will be more and more regional language content and more users wanting to search for that. We plan to introduce support for searching regional language in the coming few months. This is another area where lot of the other big search engines do not have a presence.
What will be your main business model?
We plan to roll out our own Google Adword’s like sponsored listings program in the next couple of months. One of the advantages for advertisers using our advertising program will be that their ads will get exposure to Indians who are searching for India related content (like “gifts to India”) from outside India as well. This advantage is not there for advertisers using Google.co.in for advertising as people performing Indian related search from outside of India may be using Google.com or their own country’s Google version.
What do you think of competition from other players in local search area?
We realize that there will be more and more competition from local players like Onyomo (local city specific data search) and others. A lot of these startups in local search today lack comprehensiveness. They have good depth but less breadth. Guruji will keep improving web search for Indian content as this is our core focus, but we will also add features like maps and make the city specific data more and more comprehensive to compete in the local search market. Also at Guruji, we have integrated results for web search and local search, so users get all their India specific search results at one place.
How has been the uptake of Guruji.com so far?
We have received a good amount of traffic since launch. It has clearly met our expectations. We have observed a very good number of users coming back to the site after their first visit. We will continue to focus on making our technology better to provide good user experience, which will help in getting more users through word of mouth marketing. We also plan to launch more marketing activities to create buzz for attracting new users.
I think they have the right ideas, but beating Google in the search game will be a Herculean task, esp. if/when they become serious about search in India. I have discussed quite a bit in the previous posts that getting the most ‘relevant’ Indian content could be tricky. For e.g. when searching for “Taj Mahal” I do want to see article from Wikipedia as a top result, which I do not on Guruji right now, but do on Google (granted it may be in their plan and may take some time for these type of technological issues to be ironed out).
They do have an advantage that market is still in the nascent stages as a result of which relevant, more targeted and comprehensive search results (including local and regional content) coupled with clever marketing (for e.g. deals with local PC manufacturers to make Guruji as homepage, campaigns targeted towards new Internet users) can definitely help them in making some inroads. Also here is an opportunity for players in local search (onyomo, makemyindia, etc.) to be comprehensive and win traffic in the local search vertical to give Guruji a run for their money and become potential candidates for takeovers (by Google/Yahoo/MSN or Guruji itself!)