Bangalore: Google Inc., the world’s largest Internet company, is building a huge database of local information such as businesses and restaurants in cities and towns across India, as it aims to gain a significant share in the “local search” market in India, the fastest growing market for the firm.
The majority of Internet users search for information that is local in nature, such as restaurants, shopping centres and small businesses, but experts say that there is not enough of such content online in countries such as India for search engines to mine upon.
So companies such as Google and Asklaila.com, owned by Four Interactive Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore-based local search start-up, build locally relevant content by sourcing business information from yellow pages, sending field workers to identify and verify street names, and allowing users to post information of restaurant or schools.
Google will verify the information it receives from such sources by sending businesses and individuals postcards, text messages on mobile phones and emails to confirm its accuracy. “We certainly want a leadership position in the local search space,” said Vinay Goel, country head, products, for Google India.
Google already allows users to post precise location details of restaurants and shopping centres online on satellite maps of 57 cities across India. Eventually, it plans to integrate the local search information with Google Maps, the company’s map-based application that allows users to zoom in on locations from as high as a few kilometres above earth to street-level images.
“The effort is to create the largest database of locally relevant content. It is a bit of both, we licence (in) data that is available and we create that is not there,” said Prasad Ram, head of Google’s Indian research and development facility in Bangalore.
Locally relevant information is virtually absent in small towns in India, an expert said. “You can find fairly good local information online on metro cities, but it is virtually absent when you talk about small towns,” says Sanjay Tiwari, director of JuxtConsult Research and Consulting Pvt. Ltd, an online research and advisory firm in New Delhi.
As Google steps up its India focus, local companies such as Guruji.com, an India-specific search engine that has raised $7 million (Rs29 crore) in venture funding, and Four Interactive, which has received an undisclosed sum from venture capital company Matrix Partners, see competition from the Internet giant that will make locally relevant content in the country more widely available. Microsoft Corp., which has its WindowsLive product, is also very active to offer local content online.
“It is a huge effort (to put local digital content online). It will take some time and many of us to do that,” said Shriram Adukoorie, co-founder and director of Four Interactive over the phone from Singapore. The company took nearly eight months to put local information on Bangalore online and is planning to offer local search in 21 other cities in the country.