Bangalore: Google Inc., the world’s largest Internet company, has started local language search in India that allows users to search for information online in local languages, such as Hindi and Tamil, as it aims to expand its reach and tap into more advertising business in the country.
The local language search industry in India is still nascent with only two serious players: Raftaar.com, a Hindi search engine owned by Delhi-based Indicus NetLabs Pvt. Ltd, and guruji.com, an India-specific search engine, which allows users to search in five languages including Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam, besides English. Both the Indian companies claim they don’t see Google’s entry as a threat.
“It is not that Google is invincible,” said Anurag Dod, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Bangalore-based guruji.com, which is backed by a $7 million or nearly Rs29 crore investment from the Indian arm of Sequoia Capital, the Silicon valley venture capital firm.
“You can’t bring a global product (Google search) and apply it for a local language,” said Dod, pointing that in countries such as China and South Korea, home-grown companies including Baidu.com and Naver.com lead in local language search over the US Internet giant. Guruji.com, which launched its Malayalam search on Thursday, said close to 15% of the searches on its engine were from users in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi; the rest is in English. The local, or Indic, language search is the first big product from Google in India, besides a transliteration tool that allows users to type Hindi words in English and that is translated real-time online in Devanagari script.
“Search in Indian languages is totally different than in English. You need to understand the requirements of the local users,” said Peeyush Bajpai, director and co-founder of Indicus, which owns Raftaar.com
Raftaar.com, which gets around 50,000 search queries every day, has indexed nearly six million of the 10 million pages in Hindi on the Internet. Bajpai said the company would focus on improving Raftaar before branching out with search engines in other languages in different local names. Google and the two Indian companies allow users to type on a soft or an online keyboard with alphabets in local languages to search for information on the Internet in their regional language. Google allows users to search in 13 languages, including Sanskrit and Assamese, besides Sinhala, the official language of Sri Lanka, the company said on its India labs website. Roli Agarwal, a Google spokesperson in Hyderabad, declined further comment. Analysts said that the majority of Indian users prefer local language content online and as Internet penetration spreads into smaller cities and towns, the need for content in languages such as Hindi and Bengali would rise.
“For Google and Guruji, it makes sense to tap the local language search as it has a wider base than English,” said Vivek Bhargava, director of Ultimedia E-Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai-based company that owns Communicate 2, an Internet advertising firm.