Posted on December 2nd, 2007
The title of the post might give an impression that Antya is about local search..but don’t get misleaded! In this post, I will discuss the problems faced by Indian Local search engines and possible solutions to those problems.
The addresses in India is very unstructured, with atleast half-a-dozen variations for each and every address. Incosistent abbreviations, spelling mistakes, complicated structure for door numbers, changing addresses, changing phone numbers, changing city names(!), non-functional numbers..and the list goes on…
The Local search engines has the onus of first gathering the corpus of business addresses across India. After completing such a difficult task, local search products should update the databases to keep track of all the changes in business addresses. On top of this, when someone searches for say “Schools in delhi”…the local search products doesn’t have a clue which one to show first and which one to show last. The concept of keyword relevancy doesn’t help local search, as there are bound to be tens or hundreds of records having same relevancy!
The local search product isn’t complete unless it does an intelligent job of proximity search (Search ‘nearby’ facility) and unless it provides the details of Maps and directions! Talk about Maps, India doesn’t have a detailed and accurate online maps yet…MapMyIndia has been doing a stupendous job on that front and Reliance & co is working on a giant project to sketch every inch on India in digital maps! But there is a long way to go as far as online maps are concerned.
How can someone bring structure to this insane situation? Near Impossible!
A simplistic approach seems to solve this problem to an extent, if not 100%! Instead of local search companies taking the onus of maintaining accurate address, place the onus on the business owners. Educate them to have website…Even help them create one with little difficulty. Let the businesses update the addresses in their website regularly. For them, it is just a single place to change…Distribute the work among the business owners! Sounds simple..but ambitious effort!
As a search product, we simply redirect to their web page containing the contact details…Thinking about this, this approach makes sense for yet another reason. In online world, there is no scope for touch-and-feel. The nearest touch-and-feel that one can get is to visit the website and dig the information! If there are ratings and reviews available about the business, even better! Most of the times, people will seek for numbers from telephone directories or from mobile-based solutions like Justdial.com. The need there is all about quick access to phone numbers/addresses. The remaining crowd who has come online to look for businesses, will be mighty pleased if they can visit the website first (Imagine visiting the menu section of restaurant, booking a room from hotel website, browsing the product catalogue of retail store website, getting to know about discounts and deals in the shopping mall website)
So, encouraging every business to have a website/webpage and to redirect to the respective websites as a search product makes some sense….
Thought Antya is not about local search, it has the potential to solve the problem of Indian local search by harnessing the simplistic approach mentioned above!
Would love to discuss/brainstorm on the approach mentioned. Please leave your views and I will reply.