Posts filed under guruji

Movers and Shakers of Year 2006

Written by: Madhur

On Dec 27th, 2006

It’s that time of the year. Everyone is writing about the best of 2006. We thought it would be nice to look back at the happenings in the industry in the past year. Here is a collection of news that made the headlines in 2006.

THE News
The biggest event of the year was undoubtedly the IPO of Info-Edge (group owning Naukri, 99acres, JeevanSathi). This event has heralded a new era in the consumer Internet industry in India as it became the first Internet company ever to be listed on an Indian Stock Exchange. We hope to see some more companies to follow suit in the coming few years to keep the rally going. Some of the probable followers include the Shaadi group, BharatMatrimony group and the online travel companies.

Investments
Lot of money has poured in the market in 2006. As Venture Intelligence reports, VCs have made 53 early-stage investments in start-ups in India worth $355 million during the first nine months of 2006. That’s still nearly twice as much activity in that period than the two previous years combined. Here is a partial list of the investors and their portfolio companies.The leading sector in terms of investments has been without any doubt - Travel. Makemytrip, Yatra, TravelGuru, Cleartrip are some of the big names in this sector and all of them have already taken their second rounds of funding this year. The biggest of the VC’s from Silicon Valley including Sequoia, KPCB, Matrix, Norwest, etc. have made their presence felt in India. Some of the other companies that attracted big investments included online DVD rental company SeventyMM, leading community portal Sulekha, India specific search engine Guruji.com and online tutoring company TutorVista.

M&A
The only one that we know of is the acquisition of web2.0 companies Bixee and Pixrat by MIH networks. We hope to see more activity in this sector in order to sustain the bullish web2.0 scene and the overall ecosystem.

Web2.0
Although we raised our own concerns about the sustainability of web2.0 companies, this has been the most active sector because of obvious reasons - low barrier to entry both in terms of technology and investment. Following the trend from the West, loads of startups are trying to make a mark in social networking scene including photo sharing, video sharing, news/events sharing. Here is a partial list of companies trying to fight it out to acquire whatever small percent of users and advertising revenue that is available in the Indian market today.

Fun facts and figures

  • Airline ticket customers formed 40% of online shoppers in India, followed by books comprising with 29% and music at 24% of the total purchases. 30,000 Indians buy travel tickets online everyday.
  • The number of online shoppers in India rose 7% to 3.49 million in the first half of 2006 from 3.27 million a year earlier.
  • High-speed connections in India more than doubled to 1.92 million at the end of October from 690,000 in the year 2005.
  • Desktops account for 80 per cent of the total personal computer market as compared to 20 per cent of laptops. The latter will grow at over 100 per cent from 431,834 units sold in 2005-06 to 863,668 units in 2006-07 as compared to desktop sales growing at 22 per cent from 4,164,724 units in 2005-06 to 5,676,111 units in 2006-07.
  • The number of total Internet users in India stands at 35 million currently; out of this 10 million are considered to be “power users”.

Next?
Overall, 2006 was an active year full of excitement in the industry among investors, entrepreneurs and of course the users of the Internet themselves. The year has kicked in the enthusiasm required for bootstrapping the so called “Silicon Valley in India“. 2007 is going to be very important to take these early developments to the next level towards realizing the Silicon Valley dream. At the risk of sounding obvious, increase in Internet penetration (esp. broadband) is on the top of my wish list for 2007. Without the Internet users equipped with good connection speed, industry cannot go much further. Other than that I think eCommerce really needs a boost because that is the main driver of the Internet economy. More eCommerce, more advertising dollars, more business models and more companies.

Where do you think the industry is heading from here? What’s in your wish list?

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Exclusive interview with CEO of Guruji.com

Written by: Madhur

On Nov 9th, 2006

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.

iLeher Bottomline
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!)

Related posts:
Guruji.com: Baidu of India?
Guruji.com: Web search or local search?

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