asklaila launches Voice Search (Call Center Based)..Feasibility vs. Monetization

askLaila has launched Voice based search (yes!! voice based, i.e. call center driven) in Bangalore and plans to expand to other cities in near future.

askLaila earlier tried voice recognition (did pilot/PoC with another startup) and while the company tried to get it rolling, Indian accents/dialects just do not gel well with voice recognition (Google’s voice search is a big failure, by all means).

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In order to use askLaila’s service, just call 080-33555555 and you will be connected to an agent who will help you with the query (just like JustDial (yes! they will always be compared with JD, more so now!)).

Feasibility of Voice Based Search

Here is the deal with local search service in India – no matter how good you are, you only have two options

  • you are either Google (i.e. people hit the web for all their ‘search’ needs) – and you can monetize via regular search results (sponsored links).
  • or you are JustDial (i.e. on voice).

No matter how good are you with SEO, you will compete with Google’s own local search results (which Google will promote by default) and moreover, the critical mass for your local search data still uses phone for all their local needs (i.e. Justdial model)

I have mentioned this a couple of times earlier (read: Burrp’s acquisition by InfoMedia18) that there is a ceiling to category searches on the web and most importantly, the real beast, i.e. monetization is a big challenge on the web (context is local search service).

Monetization

askLala tried Click-to-call, but the success of that initiative can be gauged from the fact that there aren’t too many advertisers (i.e. sponsored listings) on the service. So what does that leave you with? Maybe, voice. Maybe not.

Asking companies to take the voice recognition route is easier said than done – not a single service in India meets the various accents and no matter how much you train the engine, you will never be able to catch up with Indian accents (now! that’s a startup opportunity!)

Will Voice work?

Honestly, you don’t have an option when you have exposed yourself to each and every channel – i.e. web/sms/wap (even IM clients) and the ‘real’ Indian population (mass numbers) is still on the phone.

How sustainable is voice business in India (read Indian Travel Industry: Witnessing Penguin Effect)? What about the cost? Why not click-to-call (and as I am writing this, there are a few US based VoIP companies who are setting up their shops in India).

Well, one can have enough question for startups to not try the traditional route, but mind you! It’s all about real business..and real margins.

What’s your opinion?

Recent Funding in local search space

Recommended Read: The Local Search Business in India – Traffic Check