Will you bet on Local Search ?

Written by: Vivek Garg

On Feb 26th, 2007

Local search has been a very interesting challenge and alot of old and new companies are taking a stab. Lets look at this entire continuum and where each player sits. Radical idea is to find information that is geo tagged. This information can be as granular as lat-long or as coarse as a city name. So when you setup a shop to solve local search, first question is how do you collect & tag this information? How do you present this informaton so that it creates the most wholesome experience? How do you make money from this high investment business?

You can start with smart-crawling the web. I call it smart crawling because you dont crawl everything like a general purpose search engine. You need to identify and extract local information given a webpage. Dedupe listings that occurs on multiple pages. Lets says you write a kickass neural network that labels & classify this information. How does it know which one is real address? How do you verify the information you have is correct? You start thinking about this and realize that there are directory listing services that is accumulating such information forever. So you get feeds from yellow pages. There is a problem of matching different feed formats along with crawled information. This is where most of the current search engines are today. Google/Yahoo/Live/Guruji can do “crawl + feeds” using existing infrastructure.

Maps are an important feature to make this expeience wholesome. You search for your panwala and you can find directions displayed on a map. MapmyIndia is here. And other players can get a map control from them or develop their own. But what if you still did not cover the panwala that you visit so often? So you provide an interface for panwala to enter his information. Sites like Onyomo.com sit here. They even have people in the field gathering information for them. Not every panwala is literate so you ask users to enter information for him. Also what if there are multiple panwalas in your locality, how do you know which one makes the best pan. So you decide to provide community driven interface where people can interact with each other, enter their favorite panwala and also write reviews. This can explode like a social network and you accumulate valuable review information. Now you have to support a complicated website that supports a huge social network. Burrp, tolmolbol and ilaaka have such community portals.

You can go one step ahead and include classifieds, events and local blogs and pretty much everything about your city. This can be done using content mashup like yahoo’s ourcity or with full portals like Sulkeha and Sify. You must have SMS integration for SMS search & to send the address you found on the web to your mobile phone. You may develop a mobile app to display maps. You can provide “click to call” the business you surfaced for the query. You can even choose to provide a 3D exprerience. Different players have taken a different spot and now growing towards each other. I think multiple players is a boon for end user as they are collecting information in parallel and soon we will have good amount of digitized local content covering various localities. We will see interesting integration between these providers. Like Google today provide user reviews from Yelp and citysearch in US. I expect Guruji to be able to identify reviews from Burrp & tolmolbol and have interesting mashup. When these players go national, infrastructure cost will make it a really huge bet. We will see winner takes all leaving handful of players.

Where do you think this is heading? Will you concentrate on one feature or you do it all, if you were to start a local search engine?

Sphere: Related Content

Entry Filed under: burrp, community search, ilaaka, local search, mapmyindia, onyomo, ourcity, search, sulekha, tolmolbol, yelp

11 Responses

  1. 1. StartupDunia said on February 26th, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Google Maps now offers maps for several Indian cities. MapMyIndia still lacks detailed maps.

    -pranav.

  2. 2. Vivek Garg said on February 26th, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for you tip Pranav. This is a good example. Global players are going to come in sooner or later. Startups should make sure they quickly build a moat around their business or risk losing their lunch.

  3. 3. DrDoubt said on February 27th, 2007 at 5:55 am

    I think you are confusing a few things here.

    If you allow community to define info, they will most probably screw it up. The community only matures after it ‘tips’ in size. digg, wikipedia are examples. for all others, it just doesnt work.

    I think local is going nowhere in India. Its a country with strong offline social interactions, and small cities to boot.

  4. 4. Vivek Garg said on February 27th, 2007 at 6:39 am

    DrDoubt, there are ways you can prevent these screw ups. For eg google image labeler. you can get the same piece of info verified with multiple users. Or you can collect review type info that doesnt have to be reliable. eg citysearch in US does this very well w/o any community per se. I really like what Burrp.com is doing in select cities.

    I agree about India being a country with strong offline interactions. Every panwala (corner shop) is a local server that can answer most of your queries in most human query language. And creating a meaningful online service will require serious innovation.

  5. 5. Manik das said on February 27th, 2007 at 7:52 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

  6. 6. Anand Subramanian said on February 28th, 2007 at 2:34 am

    I believe Madhur, you overlooked Bangalore-based http://www.people2meet.com which is a neat concept too.

    Best,
    Anand

  7. 7. Anand Subramanian said on February 28th, 2007 at 2:36 am

    My bad. My previous post should have been addressed to Vivek and not Madhur. Apologies Vivek.

  8. 8. Vivek Garg said on February 28th, 2007 at 7:06 am

    Thanks for the tip Anand. These guys are into searchin local people and I did miss that entire concept. I think its an interesting idea. people search tied in with local community.

  9. 9. abhinav said on February 28th, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Vivek,

    I am not sure if it is much easier to create a local directory rather than building a search tool for local content.

    Check wikimapia

  10. 10. Rohan said on March 2nd, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Check out GoYaar.com - its a new really feature rich social networking site for Indians - it has a detailed local review section built on recommendations from their social network. It covers all major cities in India and cities around the world and it is integrated with Google Maps for India and major cities around the world….although street level addresses for India are not really possible yet I think. Really cool!…

  11. 11. Purnendu Singh Chauhan said on July 4th, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Definitely localization of everything is needed.

    Internet is like a Ocean where you had to find your fleet of fish.

    So I think local search engine would have a better future ahead.

    Regards
    Purnendu
    http://www.younguttaranchal.com

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