Indian Mobile Search Site Aims at Low-cost Entry

An Indian local and media search site Zook.in (http://www.zook.in/) is using search engines from Yahoo and Microsoft at the back-end of its site to keep its costs low.

Rather than pay yellow pages companies to provide local data, which is often limited to only key locations, Zook.in analyzes content thrown up in searches by mainstream search engines, to offer immediately consumable data in the area of local search and media search, said Ajay Sethi, CEO of Ziva Software, the company that runs the new web site.

Zook.in is launching at one go in India and abroad, as it believes that to succeed as a viable business proposition, it has to scale quickly to millions of users.

Local searches and searches for media are key search categories for mobile phone users, Sethi said.

While mobile phone users can also search for other general information on the Zook.in web site, the results displayed on its "Web snippets" section will be of a similar quality to those offered by the back-end mainstream search engines, he said.

On local searches, the site returns data such as the address and telephone numbers of hotels, restaurants, government offices, consulates, malls, hospitals, and other key places. Users can click on the telephone numbers provided, and dial out immediately, Sethi said.

As the site uses the Web to gather information, it can provide relevant information on any location in the world, he added. Some errors such as outdated telephone numbers may creep into results, but learning from usage patterns of consumers, the Zook.in technology can over time weed out the wrong data, Sethi said.

Local searches offered by mainstream search engines are generally limited to locations covered by their content providers such as the yellow pages companies, he added.

Media searches on Zook.in are also designed to throw up more free media that can be easily downloaded, Sethi said.

Ziva has already been offering back-end search services to some mobile services operators in India. These services primarily allow users to send a query using SMS (Short Message Service) to an operator-specified number. The responses are in turn also delivered by SMS to the user. This technology was preferred by service providers because of the popularity of SMS, and also because of the low penetration of Internet mobile connections in the country, Sethi said.

Ziva set up Zook.in last year to enable prospective telecom operator clients to check out the functionality of its search service, Sethi said. The plan was to later launch the site as a separate service.

The company plans to tie up with mobile handset vendors and mobile operators worldwide to popularize its technology. It plans to provide links on search results to relevant service providers such as travel agents, and firms that do movie reservations. If the user books a service through these agents, Ziva would get a commission from the transaction, Sethi said.

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