Have you been Zooking lately? Did you Zook that movie? If not then try it on your cell phone or you can give it a shot at http://www.zook.in/ . This mobile search based service is an offering from Ziva. Ziva has been in the press/blogs for several reasons since its inception. Read this buzz from our trusted sources.
We spoke to Ajay Sethi, founder of Ziva, couple of months back and I have a detailed interview but a lot of similar coverage is already out here, and a very insightful podcast here. Let me know if you want the entire transcript and I will send it to you. I am really intrigued with the dual prong approach Ziva is taking.
1. Developing a pluggable search platform that they can sell to other companies that own content. Search game so far is about developing a better search engine. In house technology is one of the differentiating factors for most of the big search companies today. But Ziva is in a way disrupting this in India. Instead of taking a black box approach and in sourcing content as conventional search engines are doing, they have turned around and white boxed their engine. They are making it available for content owners like JustDial.
Ziva’s platforms are being used by 15 well-known B2C companies in India. These are in the fields of yellow pages, mobile content, bollywood content, printed media content, m-coupons, etc. B2C companies are using Ziva’s platforms to make their own content accessible to their end-users.
2. Once you have a platform, you can start building search verticals. Local search/ travel search etc comes to mind when we talk about India. But why to get into already very crowded space and compete with big names. Instead they have come up with Zook. This is a very smart selection. Do only mobile based search. And that too for the content that is most relevant and directly generates revenue. Ringtones, graphics etc can directly lead to downloadable content and sales. Cricket news and other entertainment news are in high demand. Local search has a new angle too. SMS based social network to ask/collect and enhance QnA. We all know the SMS story in India and tapping into that market is very smart.
We have consciously chosen to maintain almost exclusive focus on the mobile space because user requirements and usage patterns are different, user’s context and expectations are different, the types of queries and the desired answers are different. Moreover, mobile search is a nascent and rapidly growing field with huge potential – we want to maintain laser-sharp focus on the mobile search only.
I couldn’t agree more here. But I think monetizing SMS social network based service is going to be tough. This has 1:N SMS approach where system sends N text messages for every message that asks a question, where N is the number of people in your social network. This will increase the infrastructure cost with increase in volumes. On monetization this is what I got from Ajay,
Ziva has built an ad platform with dynamic category-based keyword bidding capabilities. The primary focus in this regard is towards enabling suitable actions for the vendors. For example, when people search for movies, Zook will not only provide the relevant information quickly but also support relevant actions such as: download music/ringtones, purchase m-ticket and get it delivered, rent corresponding DVD and get it delivered, etc. Zook plans to utilize pay-per-action (in addition to pay-per-click and pay-per-impression) as the possible monetization options.
Let’s look at the biggest picture of mobile search and how it all fits. Existing players want to move already profitable search experience we have today on the web to handheld devices. They will want to keep their back end systems same and want to innovate on the UX side. Minimum points of interaction as Ajay Sethi puts it. This is where Zook approach is far more interesting. In the game of mobile search the moat is no longer the back end system but it’s the user interaction and how quickly you can return the most affirmative result. You cannot throw 200 most relevant results to a mobile user to sort out what he wants.
There are lots of challenges in the mobile search. A very good summary at Mobile Search: Monster or Mirage. Gomo News is a good information source for worldwide mobile offerings. Currently, growth looks very good for India. Bango recently published that India has one of the fastest growing mobile browsing user base. The top five countries accessing the mobile web via Bango in April 2007 were the UK at 27%, the US at 21%, South Africa at 11%, India at 9% and Indonesia at 3%. Data shows that 9% of all accesses to mobile websites now come from India, up from 4% a year ago. We will have to wait and see if Ziva’s approach is working and how they will adopt to new locality based searches etc. But as of now they are doing all the right things to be at the center of it in India.
While talking about location based mobile search - a colleague told me if he owned a pizza shop - he would call everyone in 1 mile radius @ lunch time and say “pizzzzzzzzzzzzzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” [imagine the most hungry voice possible] and hang up. Idea to ponder?