Does India need a *National* search engine?

The heat is on for India’s *national* search engine.

Right from Guruji.com to several other stealth mode players, everybody wants to get a string of my search queries.

But my basic question is – Google is my gateway to www – so why do I need another search engine [which is very local]?

Moreover, switching from Google to any other search engine mandates behavioral change. And unless there is a compelling reason, I strongly suspect that people will switch!

I asked the same question to one of the founders (of a stealth mode co. which is working in the same space). And he replied – “Why not? If China can have it’s own *national* search engine, i.e. Baidu, So why not India? After all, we both are giant non-english economies!”

To me, that’s a lame analogy and here’s why!

The reasons why China needed a Baidu are completely different from why India will ever need a *national* search engine! And the most significant reason is China’s unique landscape [political/cultural], the censorship and the Chinese govt’s *Great Firewall*!

Excerpts from NYTimes article:

“The globally dominant U.S. Internet companies have failed to take the No. 1 market share position in any category [in China],” says Jason D. Brueschke, a Citigroup analyst, of the Chinese market. “And they came with more money and major brand names. And so there’s something fundamentally different about this market.”…. “The real battle in the competitive landscape is not about who’s No. 1, it’s about who’s going to be No. 2,” he says.”

“Technically speaking, China imposes tight restrictions on bandwidth for traffic entering the country, which means that any Web site hosted outside of China is going to load more slowly than sites hosted within China. It’s another way to control content and force companies to invest in the market. But I find it interesting that the Chinese version of Google.com is holding its own against Google.cn.” [Source]

On the contrary, Chinese story has no similarity to India’s fairly open and global market.
So what could be the right reason to build a search engine for India?

Simplistically put, none of the existing biggies cater to local needs. [as told by founders of Guruji.com]. ” [Guruji Blog]

But wait, what’s the local need? You mean a query like — “How do I prepare sambhar vada?”
My 2 cents: As long as there is a local content, I would expect Googs of the SE world to index and don’t see why I will another search engine for this purpose?

A look at Guruji shows that Guruji is trying to position itself as a *city-specific* search engine [atleast I got that feel]. They have indexed Yellow pages across few selected cities, which is a great idea for increasing the product adoption and to stay relevant.

My only concern is – Is Guruji a ‘yellow pages search engine’ or a ‘search engine’? How and when should I use Guruji?

Anyways, the India search space will evolve over a period of time and the good news is that Guruji founders are working on the right question, i.e. “What will make an Indian search engine needed?” i.e. Relevancy.

IMHO, I will use a non-goog, India-specific search engine for the following purposes:

  • Local Language/Vernacular search: Search engine that indexes and returns regional content [Hindi/Kannada/Marathi etc…] is the one that will be most relevant.
  • Local Interface – Give me a local interface, i.e. ability to type in the regional language. Typically Indians think in their local language and convert that to the foreign language (i.e. English). Remove that barrier. Allow users to type the query (e.g. quilpad) in their local language (and of course index the local content too)
  • Verticalized Search – To stay relevant and be needed, one of the most effective ways for Indian search engine would be to focus on specific verticals – e.g. Health related, Food/Recipes, Literature, Indie Blogs, Bollywood, etc..
  • How about something on the lines of Goog’s Book scan/digitization effort? One of the most significant value add that Indian search engine can do is to make rich literary work searchable and save it from extinction. Most of the great literary works are lying in the shelf (‘waiting for the worms’) and any desi effort to digitize them (and make them searchable) will be the most relevant piece that a search engine can ever do.

As of this date, none of Indian search produce relevant result – I searched for “Glass painting classes Delhi” – and Goog stays most relevant!

Also see: Review of Indian Search Engine

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Get smarter with most important stories.

You May Also Like