Google India has introduced phone based local search enabling users to dial a toll free number and get info about the local business – restaurants, movies etc.
The service is being tested in Hyderabad and users can call the toll-free number 1 800 41 99 99 99 to get details about the business and if needed, Google can forward the call to the business.
This is surely a good way to monetize via lead generation, but I believe Google is thinking beyond that.
In local search, data is a huge challenge – no single player has the correct data and given the fragmented market, offline way to collect data is just not scalable.
JustDial leads here, but of course, they won’t share the data with any third party. So, the only way out for Google is to give away a toll-free number, get closer to users and start collecting the queries. For queries that throw results, Google will monetize via forwarding the call to the business.
In future, I won’t be surprised if Google starts driving traffic to their toll-free number via their local product.
The service is currently being tested in Hyderabad (which I think is more of a logistic choice, since Google already has a support center there), but once Google starts spreading to other cities, the startups in local search space will face the heart burn.