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Indian search engines, though nascent, can give tough competition to global giants: Experts

23-September-2009
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Indian search engines, though nascent, can give tough competition to global giants: Experts

ComScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, had recently released a study focusing on Google’s strong position in India, which showed that Google sites accounted for 88.4 per cent of all searches conducted.

Similarly, ViziSense, one of India’s leading online audience measurement and analytics platforms, in its overview on the Indian online search market highlighted that Google dominated the Indian online search space with over 91 per cent of search market share, while the remaining 9 per cent search market share went to players like Yahoo!, Microsoft and local or Indian players like Guruji.com. Nevertheless, when it came to reach of search users, the Microsoft-Yahoo! combine scored a 38 per cent share in India as per ViziSense data for July 2009, while Guruji.com received 4.99 per cent in terms of reach.

In China, Baidu, a local search engine, is said to be more popular than global giants like Google. India, too, has Guruji.com, AskLaila.com, Justdial.com, and Onyomo.com, among others. The Indian search engine market is currently estimated at around $40-50 million and is expected to grow to around $150-200 million in the next four to five years.

But can the local players give global giants like Google a run for their money? What does the future look like for this nascent market? exchange4media finds out.

How industry experts see it

Alok Goel, Product Manager, Google India, affirmed, “Indian users love Google as a product, and Google is a lot more local than any other search engine in the Indian market. That Google is a global search engine and does not serve the Indian needs is absolutely a myth. We are the preferred search engine of the users, and they love the search engine results we provide them. We are actively working on further improving the search results for the users.”

One of the recently launched features – Google Trends – is said to being increasingly gaining popularity among Indian users, and with mobile touted as the next big thing for the Internet, Google is also seen to be very bullish on this platform as well.

Goel further said, “We continue to bring in a lot of products that are relevant to Indian users. Apart from the desktop search, we are also very bullish on mobile search, as we believe mobile will play an even more important role in people’s lives.”

Anurag Dod, CEO and Co-Founder, Guruji.com, observed, “Indian search engine is still in its early stages as of now, but there is still a lot of potential in terms of growth. Currently, it is close to about $40-50 million dollar market, but if you look at how this market has grown across the different geographies, be it the US or China, then this market can go grow from anywhere from a $40-50-millon dollar market to $150-200-million dollar market in the next 4-5 years. To achieve this growth, what needs to be done is increase Internet penetration, which is still very low.”

According to Kiran Konduri, Co-Founder, AskLaila, “The Indian search market is estimated to be a billion dollar market in the next three to five years.”

The road ahead

Dod noted, “There is need for a search engine which is more customised for the Indian users, and that’s where Guruji comes in. I believe Indian search engines will soon give tough competition to global giants. In fact, it is already happening. There has been a good response from advertisers in this market. In the case of Guruji.com, over 100 brands have advertised with us and we are even seeing some of the traditional FMCG brands venturing online – Nokia, HUL, shaadi.com, makemytrip, ngos, fropper.com – to name a few.”

Konduri of AskLaila said, “The local advertising market will grow bigger and will become clearly defined, because currently local advertising in India has not broken out as a separate category. Secondly, consumer adoption of the services will also grow dramatically.”

“One of the biggest challenges I believe is consumer adoption and awareness of the services, nevertheless, consumer awareness in India is gradually building up. In our case, we have seen our growth triple year-on-year since the launch (in terms of the number of users), which only means that there is a market for this space, and this despite not marketing,” he added.

Mobile is yet another focus area for most of these search operators, Guruji.com recently launched a ringtone search and claims to have made a lot of investments in making search a user-friendly experience on mobile. While the Indian search engine market is still at a very nascent stage, it is poised for growth and local players are bullish about its growth.

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