The internet scene has witnessed a slew of search engines in the recent years. Quite a few search engines have also evolved in the Indian subcontinent. When one speaks about such sites in the Indian context, we surely cannot miss out Guruji.com, which is one of the first and well-developed search engines in the country. TechShout conducted an interview with Anurag Dod, CEO and founder of Guruji.com where he threw light on the site, its plans and much more.
TS: Can you tell us something about yourself and Guruji.com?
Anurag Dod (AD): I have done my B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Delhi and Masters in Computer Science from University of Michigan. Post my studies I worked for close to 10 years in the US, mostly in the Silicon Valley. I was fortunate enough to have worked with both large multinationals as well as with start-ups. And now, I am totally focused on making Guruji.com a huge success. Guruji.com is India’s first crawler based search engine. We aspire to create a world class search engine, right here in India, to meet the search needs of the Indian users. The current version of Guruji.com allows users to get relevant web search results in English as well as in 5 Indian languages (Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu). We also provide the most expansive city search data where users can search for restaurants, doctors, gymnasiums and so on…across 30+ cities. With Guruji movie timing search, you can also search for movie timings in over 13 cities – Try “movies Bangalore”.
TS: What inspired you to come out with a local search engine for India?
AD: The biggest inspiration comes from the opportunity itself – opportunity to be back in India and create something truly exciting and successful. I & Gaurav Mishra (co-founder) came from an internet technology industry and we saw the success of search engines in the US, we also saw no product in India which was addressing the Indian market completely. The Indian players -searchindia, khoj etc. were all directory based approaches which do not scale. Basically the gap in the market, the growing Indian internet both in terms of usage and content prompted us to launch Guruji.com.
TS: When is Guruji.com planning to come out of beta?
AD: We will come out of beta soon.
TS: Recently you had approached a lot of Indian websites to use Guruji search on their websites. How is that working out?
AD: We have got extremely encouraging responses from our distribution partners. We are glad that an increasing number of internet publishers are seeing merit in our technology and our overall value proposition.
TS: What kind of revenues have you generated in this financial year?
AD: We are experimenting with different flavors of our targeted advertising based revenue model. I am sure you will appreciate our inability to report precise revenue details.
TS: What kind of hits does your search engine get?
AD: We have witnessed positive response from both the user as well as the publisher community. Although, we are not at liberty to reveal the precise traffic details one can always look at sites like alexa.com to obtain the traffic estimates.
TS: Do you see any changes in the manner of search made? Do you see a lot of key words or key phrases search made?
AD: That’s an interesting question. When we launched Guruji.com last year, we received a good number of searches that we believe were experimental in nature. They were essentially to “try us out” but now we are seeing more of utility searches which are need based. We see this as a positive trend and an affirmation of our value prop. Entertainment, news, travel and city related searches are some of the dominant categories.
TS: How do you rank websites? What do you take into consideration? Is it links, key word density, age of the site? What exactly?
AD: Our proprietary algorithm takes into account a multitude of variables to assess the rank of a website. It’s difficult to lay down all these variables but it is a combination of what you have pointed out and more. Websites are of different types – portals, verticals, blogs, yellow pages, and classifieds and so on. Each type of website requires a unique approach for ranking assessment with different weights to different variables. Moreover, a good part of ranking is closely tied with what has been searched for. This is figured out by over 100 decisions taken by the ranking algorithm.
TS: Do you also plan to come out with something that would show how you rank sites in your search engine, something like Page Rank etc., in those lines essentially?
AD: Page Rank is a measure of static rank of a website. We already have our own measure of static rank. We can surely consider sharing something like this if we see any incremental value to our users or the publisher community.
TS: How many languages does Guruji.com currently support? Do you plan to introduce more languages?
AD: The current version of Guruji.com allows users to get relevant web search results in English as well as in 5 Indian languages (Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu). We have plans for more languages and you will soon see us make announcements in this area.
TS: In numbers, can you please specify the kind of searches Guruji.com sees?
AD: As I expressed earlier, it would be difficult to reveal the numbers. But one can always refer external web traffic sites like alexa.com to get estimates on our traffic.
TS: Do you rank the .in domains in any special manner than the .com ones, keeping in mind that Guruji is a local search engine and .in domains signify Indian websites?
AD: We have our own proprietary approach to discover high quality websites. These sites may or may not be hosted in India or have a .in domain. The website has to be relevant to our users. For e.g. there is a host of international technology and health related sites that are not Indian but have very high quality content. We rank websites on their intrinsic relevance value which cannot be guaranteed or discounted just based on the” Indian” aspect.
TS: How do you plan to compete with the likes of Google, MSN and Yahoo?
AD: We believe our strength lies in our India focus. We strive to innovate around our core search technology and India focus. There is a huge opportunity to innovate around the peculiarities of the Indian users and their unique needs. Our users would see us coming out with more such differentiators to better meet the need of the Indian searcher.
TS: Do you plan to come out with an ad-related program such as AdSense for Indian websites? Do you think the same could work for you as well?
AD: We are considering and exploring all approaches to deliver value for our users, publishers and advertisers. Targeted advertising remains our core revenue model and we will consider all options around it.
TS: Do you plan to introduce blog search since blogs are gaining grounds even in India?
AD: Blog is a unique new platform that is gaining traction in the Indian Internet space. We are studying its impact from a search standpoint. We already cover most of the India relevant blogs in our current Index. We are studying if the current state of blogs in India do require a specialized treatment.
TS: Will a localized news section be incorporated into Guruji.com, basically on the lines of what Google News offers? Such a thing is sure to be of a lot of interest for localized people?
AD: You are right. News is an important search category. We already have the necessary technology infrastructure in place to deliver good results on news related searches. We are now analyzing innovation opportunities for better treatment of news related searches.
TS: How often do you refresh your search index?
AD: Freshness is an important dimension of relevance – our primary objective. We strive to have as much fresh content as possible in our index and accordingly refresh our search index. Some sites owing to their structure, quality and type of content deserve more frequent refreshes as compared to others.
TS: How do you deal with search engine spam?
AD: Spam is possibly the single biggest challenge for all search engines including ours. There are various types of spams, each with its own uniqueness. We are constantly refining our spam detection algorithms to identify spam sites and accordingly clean them up from our index.
TS: How do you monetize Guruji.com? Any new monetization plans in the works?
AD: At a high level, our monetization model is based on targeted advertisements. We see a number of innovation opportunities around the specific constraints and needs of the Indian advertiser.
TS: After the investment that Sequoia Capital India and Angel Investors have made in Guruji.com, are you still open for more on VC investments? Where are the investments going?
AD: We usually refrain from making any speculative statements around investments and funding. People, product, infrastructure are the most dominant areas where we are actively investing.
TS: Any new services in the pipeline? Any new features that you are working on for Guruji.com?
AD: We are currently working hard on understanding the needs of the Indian searcher and making our web search as relevant as possible. You will see us getting better at city search, launching search in more Indian languages and releasing some more interesting search applications. Do stay tuned.
TS: Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
AD: In the next 4-5 years, we aspire to become the most preferred search engine in the Indian Internet space. We want to become the de facto window to all information needs of the Indian Internet user.