With MSN India launching a couple of Indian language portals and Yahoo! India all set to follow suit, Hindi search engine Raftaar.com is ready to grab the opportunity to become the Google of Hindi search space before others jump into the fray.
The search engine from the Indicus Netlabs, a part of the research firm Indicus Analytics, is all set to become a full-fledged search engine with improved features and indexing. The fully equipped search engine will be launched on January 26, 2007 coming out of its beta version. The alpha version of the search engine was first launched last year on January 26. It entered its beta stage on August 15, 2006.
Though search engine giants like Google and Yahoo! have not yet formally launched Hindi versions of their search engines, if someone writes in Hindi script and searches it on these search engines by copy-pasting it, he gets equally good results from Hindi sites. (If you think writing in Hindi without a keyboard is not easy, then try Rediff Mail service or Raftaar.com itself, which provide an onscreen Hindi keyboard and copy-paste it on Google or Yahoo!).
A search for the term Bharat in Hindi script gives 1,060,000 results on Google, 425,000 results on Yahoo!, and 117,709 results on Raftaar.com. (Even 99acres.com has put a sponsored ad in Hindi for this keyword on Google).
So what’s so special about Raftaar.com? “Hindi search is a different ballgame altogether. The indexing has to be different than what it is for English search because there is no URL or keyword written in Hindi. But Google and Yahoo! adopt the same indexing for the Hindi search as well. But we have developed the tool that translates keywords and URLs in Hindi and provides more relevant search,” claimed Peeyush Bajpai, Director, Raftaar.com.
“We also adopt contextual search method as opposed the algorithm-based indexing by other search engines. For any search result, we provide various categories and related search option to narrow down the search result and make it more accurate,” Bajpai added.
Raftaar claims to be tracking one million Hindi pages on a weekly basis. It also tracks 45 news sites on an hourly basis. Interestingly, though you might not have come across a blog written in Hindi script, Raftaar tracks 1,000 such blogs like jaihanumanji.blogspot.com, saptrang.blogspot.com, hindiblogs.com/timepass, etc.
“We will soon be adding new features like auto-correct, text-editor. More work has to be done on clustering so that it will be more meaningful to users,” Bajpai said.
There are, however, a few bugs one might encounter with the search engine at its beta stage that need to be fixed. If you are searching for two terms and want to make changes in the first term, the search engine does not accept that.
When asked about the business model of the Hindi search engine and one gets a surprisingly blunt reply. “We don’t have a business model as such,” admitted Bajpai, adding, “It all started out of our passion. If we had thought about a revenue model two years back, we could not have started it at all. Our work is being funded through our revenue from the research projects of our parent company and we don’t need any external funding at least for another 3-4 years. What we need are some passionate people to work for this project.”
Raftaar recently partnered with Jeevansathi.com to provide solution to its Hindi matrimonial portal.
But long before Raftaar, Webduniya.com gave India its first Hindi search engine. How different is Raftaar from Webduniya? “We are a hardcore search-based technology company, whereas Webduniya is into content business as well. The nearest analogy that we draw is, if Webduniya is Yahoo!, then we are Google, though Google now has started doing a lot of other things. Then Webduniya provides search facility for its own content only,” Bajpai maintained.
But Raftaar also seems to be interested in treading the Google path. “In due course, we will launch news and mail services in Hindi under Raftaar.com,” said Laveesh Bhandari, Director, Indicus Analytics, and Chief Mentor, Raftaar.com. “We will also gradually enter into other Indian language search,” Bajpai informed.