tolmolbol – newest entrant in your local community

Written by: Vivek Garg

On Feb 25th, 2007

We recently spoke to tolmolbol, one of the newer players in India trying to make a mark in online local community/search space. This space is already crowded with the names like Ilaaka, Burrp, Onyomo, Sulekha. Ourcity and Guruji. Not to forget Google, Yahoo and Live search are/will be joining this game in India. This space now officially qualifies for “Indian fragmentation syndrome” similar to travel & DVD rental. Opportunity is there but not enough to attract a national play. Lot of smaller companies will trail the blaze and accumulate disjoint information about various localities in India. This should eventually get consolidated and customers are going to be benefitted with yet another addition. Here is tolmolbol (this name reminds me of tol-mol-ke-bol – the famous game show based on Monty hall problem), but that is just me.

1. What motivated you to start this venture?

The biggest motivation for starting tolmolbol stemmed from our frustration with not being able to find and locate dependable information about our localities. We couldn’t find a single online resource that provided a directory of local businesses and services across Indian cities. There was no platform at a national level for Indians to collectively voice their opinions about local businesses. And we were fed up with experiencing first-hand the indifferent attitude of service providers towards customers. Furthermore, there was no single portal for the entire neighborhood where members of the community could share tips, post classifieds, communicate events, meet interesting people in their vicinity or leverage the knowledge of their local social networks. tolmolbol is the outcome of our effort to address all of these problems.

2. There are other players in the market. Some of them have more (or different set of) features than others, but the central idea is city specific information. How do you plan to compete?

There are probably a few more startups in addition to a couple of deep pocketed players like Sify and Sulekha who are looking at this space. In reality, all of these players, including tolmolbol, address different needs of a locality in varying degrees. For example, ilaaka does not offer a review mechanism for local businesses. With tolmolbol, one can not only review businesses but also bookmark them for future reference. Additionally, one can also see who has written a particular review and quickly find out more about the reviewer including who his/her friends are and what other posts he/she has contributed. As far as I am aware, it appears that Burrp and Onyomo focus on a handful of Indian cities and service categories. Again, you probably wouldn’t use Yahoo – Our City if you are looking for information on local services and businesses. With tolmolbol, however, you can find dependable restaurants, doctors, real estate agents, beauty parlors, movie theaters or any other service provider from a whole range of categories across scores of Indian cities. What’s more, we also offer a cool social network for you to stay in touch with your friends and provide a single platform for you to write reviews, ask questions, share insights, post classifieds and communicate events to your community. Apart from business listings, you can also download details of events and classifieds onto your mobile phones via SMS for free. Along with these key differentiators, we are intently focused upon bridging the gap between service providers and the community. To this extent, tolmolbol also has a powerful local search capability. We have just launched and have a lot more cool features and enhancements coming up including exclusive deals with local businesses and a mobile based search that works. We hope all of these together will add up and really set tolmolbol apart from the rest.

3. There is a lot of talk that due to relatively small Internet penetration (esp. broadband) content play is not the best bet at least at this point. What’s your take on this?

To some extent, the small internet penetration is also a result of the lack of interesting content available for the Indian netizen. However, the stage for content-based internet plays in India is just being set. This is in large part due to the attention that some of the large media houses like TV18/Web18, the Times group and NDTV are paying towards this space. For video-on-demand type of plays, I do believe that the technology is there and the user base is there. An ad-supported subscription model will definitely work. It all depends on the quality of content available and we are probably still a good year or two away before copyright owners in India fully embrace the power of the internet.

4. The success of your site obviously depends on having good quality and quantity of user generated content. What do you do to encourage user participation on your site?

User generated content is only part of the ball game. In addition to aggregating user experiences, tolmolbol can be used as a powerful, stand-alone tool for local search. For eg., if you live in Hyderabad and feel like eating noodles somewhere around Banjara Hills, you could just type in “noodles” in the “Search For” box and “banjara hills” in the “Location” box. You will immediately get a list of all the Chinese restaurants in the area. We make it easy for you to locate service providers in your neighborhood. I am not sure if any of the big search engines can today give you similar results. While user participation is important, we would any day pick quality of content over quantity. tolmolbol has been designed to be a fun product and we hope that is what draws users to us. Furthermore, the built-in social network features of tolmolbol will aid viral adoption. Promotional schemes in the nature of exclusive deals with local businesses are also in the offing.

5. How would you define the “success” of your site: 1 year down the line, 2 years down the line, 5 years down the road?

We will measure our progress over time across different parameters. At the end of the first year, these metrics would be based on our success at driving user adoption, building a comprehensive database of local businesses across Indian cities and meeting internal targets based on reviews written and experiences shared. By the end of the second year, our goal is to see businesses across categories partnering with us to offer exclusive deals to tolmolbol users. Five years down the line, our hope is that tolmolbol becomes synonymous with dependable local information for not just anyone resident in India but also for those living in other geographies. Success, for us, would be about working towards and achieving these goals.

6. How is your company funded currently? Have you pitched the idea to investors yet? How has been their reaction?

To date, tolmolbol has been completely self-funded. We founded an IT services company by the name Pennywise Solutions in 2003, after graduating and working for a couple of years in some well-known organizations. While Pennywise continues to implement technology solutions for SMBs across Europe and the US, we believe that the time is right for internet and mobile telephony based plays in India. tolmolbol is our first offering in this regard. We are currently in talks with some potential investors. Some of our IT services clients who are based abroad have also proposed setting up a joint venture/partnership in their respective countries. All of them are pretty excited about the prospect of making local businesses more accessible to communities. That said, we enjoy the challenge of starting up, which is in some sense comparable to walking on a tightrope. We prefer doing it on our own until we find the right support from the right partner.

Please leave your comment/feedback to the tolmolbol team or any other thoughts you have about local search business.

 

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Entry Filed under: city search,local community,local search,search,tolmolbol

10 Responses

  1. 1. Rithesh Prasad said on February 25th, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Many thanks for your interest in and coverage of tolmolbol.com.

    To all you iLeher readers: Namaste from the entire tolmolbol team. We and the entire neighbourhood look forward to your reviews and experiences on tolmolbol. Hope to see y’all soon :)

    –Rithesh
    tolmolbol.com – get local; be vocal!

  2. 2. Prashan Bahari said on February 26th, 2007 at 1:34 am

    These guys are entering a space that is way too crowded. Just became even more of a rat-race.

  3. 3. Tooting My Own Horn, OK, Please!? « Last Man Blogging! said on February 26th, 2007 at 10:53 am

    […] Tooting My Own Horn, OK, Please!? Posted February 26, 2007 iLeher.com is a top-notch blog that covers the Indian technology startup space. Their top story now is an interview with the tolmolbol team. You can find out more about tolmolbol at this link. […]

  4. 4. vijay said on February 26th, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    just tried tolmolbol, looks like many wesites are trying to solve community search thing, but somehow its just duplicating Yellow Pages and putting them in WebPages or so.

    As a information seeker i donnot find much of value additions for spending time on those, no site can say they can cater to a city in 100%.

  5. 5. Vivek Garg said on February 26th, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Rithesh, Thanks for dropping by. Can you tell us more about how tolmolbol gathers local information?

  6. 6. Ramesh said on February 27th, 2007 at 6:14 am

    I dont think there are enough players in this area. I think the only good players here seem to be Burrp and the new entrant Tolmolbol. iLaaka does not seem to have that feel in it and pages look clutterred. Lets see how this goes.

  7. 7. Rithesh Prasad said on February 28th, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Vivek: We work with data providers for the same. Feel free to email me if you have more questions.
    -Rithesh

  8. 8. The tolmolbol blog » Blog Archive » AlooTechie-d and iLeher-ed said on April 2nd, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    […] AlooTechie is a uber-cool Indian blog with the tagline “Whatever Matters in the Indian Online Industry”. Their current top story features an interview with the tolmolbol team. Some weeks ago, we were also featured on iLeher, another top-notch blog focused on the Indian internet space. […]

  9. 9. vijay said on April 3rd, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Now you can search for Business addresses, Big landmarks with clear maps of Hyderabad. Ilaka-team has implemented this
    http://www.ilaka.in

    ilaka.in is a leading provider of local online advertising solutions and Internet-based business pages, interconnecting consumers, merchants and national advertisers. We help consumers quickly and easily find local businesses offering specific products and services, while creating revenue opportunities for merchants. ilaka.in continues to evolve the concept of a traditional print directory into an interactive and dynamic medium, with a central focus on helping small and medium-size and large businesses to establish a presence on the Web and connect with the consumers who are looking to do business with them. Today’s Leader in Linking Merchants and Consumers

    ilaka.in provides a fast and easy way for people and businesses to find each other on the Web. Each day, millions of consumers find the businesses they need through us – from a local florist, to a nearby car dealership, to the restaurants closest to a planned vacation. At the same time, gives service providers an easy way to connect with consumers who are ‘ready to buy’ – helping them establishes and grows their presence on the Web.

    Anyone with a Web browser can use ilaka.in to find local businesses. Ilaka.in business pages are uniquely structured and highly interactive so consumers can quickly and easily locate businesses that satisfy their needs. We make it easy for users to narrow their search for specific products and services they are looking for. No merchant is too small to capitalize on the Internet to grow their business. By offering small and medium-size, large businesses the helping hand they need to achieve both a presence on the Internet and consumer visibility, As one of the prominent resources for finding people and businesses on the Internet, Ilaka.in can become an important asset to any marketer’s advertising campaign.

  10. 10. Iameleone said on June 17th, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I think its a good venture into an unorganized market. The problems still being internet penetration in a quite rudimentary way.
    The dynamics of an Indian startup seems to be quite an interesting given India has one of the best community interaction and awareness and still a handicapped network community. I would be more interested in the data sources as well. Good Try there.

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