AskBirbal is a human powered search engine on SMS, that is positioned as a QnA service. The service has a team of experts (Birbals) who answer the queries in real time (5-6 mins).
This is how Ask Birbal works:
1. Send your query to +91 9650607080. No syntax/formatting to follow. Plain human readable text works fine.
2. You receive an acknowledgment SMS immediately. Followed by the answer in 5 mins. Done!
I must appreciate the fun factor they have combined with the service by giving a personality to it. Also the usability couldn’t be any simpler. Coming to the main point of QoS, as in the Quality of Answers. I think they have quite a lot to do. I asked them 2 simple questions and was only partially convinced. Judge for yourself.
Currently they have an in-house team of experts but they are also enrolling experts based on an online test and will be conducting bi-weekly training sessions. They will be probably making it a work-from-home thing for the experts. They are trying to enroll specific domain oriented experts so that dependence on web search can be decreased.
The service is ad supported on SMS. Every question you ask is also posted on their site, giving further revenue potential. I am very skeptic about this model on SMS, though on web it is fine.
Compare this to VoiceTap, we reviewed last week. Voicetap’s experts are actually from that domain whereas AskBirbal does a web search and returns a human formatted result. Simply speaking AskBirbal connects you to the already existing content whereas VoiceTap lets you speak to the content creator. Also, the model of monetizing transactions is better than the ad supported model.
Look at this from the content generators PoV. What is the expert’s motivation to answer the query in each case. In Voicetap, somebody has called me up and is waiting for the reply at the other end. He has a face to himself (atleast a voice), we exchange contacts, develop a connection and he thanks me at the end. I dare not hang up the phone on him. I don’t have a reason to do so (until ofcourse, its your Mother-in-Law). But incase of AskBirbal, i dont know who is asking. One transaction is just one query and one response, has to be very objective. And probably my motivation will be that i will be paid on a per answer basis.
Overall, AskBirbal has the potential if it can tweak a little on the delivery end.
Do give AskBirbal a spin. Register here to become a Birbal.
Understanding User Needs – The Fundamental Motivation Theory
User Generated Content in India: What web can learn from Radio and TV
How Smart Companies Understand User Needs (and Exploit them)
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]