Special M-Coupons for Mumbaikars

[ X-post from The Zook blog yet again. Am getting lazy.... ]

Our coupons and deals partners, Open2Save, have gotten some special deals in Mumbai. These will not be available through search, but you can subscribe for the same for delivery every month through SMS.

How ? SMS “O2S mum” to 57575665

You’ll get a the current deals in your Inbox (and we’ll keep sending fresh ones once in a while) - if any specific one catches your fancy, just SMS the keyword for that deal to us, and we’ll send you the coupon you need to show the store/restaurant before you order/buy stuff.

Happy shopping!

[ Tip: for the readers of this blog - 984-551-9665 - thats 984-551-zook on your phone-keypad - will work as well for now. If we see more usage on the long code - we'll move to one for good. Its a Karnataka number so in other circles you'll need to prefix a +91 or 0 - +91-984-551-9665 ]

"Q" it to Know it

Good bisibele in Bangalore ? Distance to Goa ? How does one get to Chikmaglur ? When’s the next exam for this board or that ? Whats CERN ? How many moons does Jupiter have ? Meanings of words ?

We've launched a shortcut to answers from the community : SMS “Q ” to 57575665 (in India) to get a relevant, way more reliable answer to just ANY question you may have - directly from the community.

You can also help others with what you know at http://42.zook.in/. Can’t really beat real peoples’ knowledge for correctness, relevance, after all. You always know best.

In a G Spot ?

Google advertised its SMS search today.

This kinda news always shakes things up for a small outfit like ours :) Its also a nice catalyst for a bunch of plans and certain points of views in stuff debated internally.

Most of all, they may help expand the pull-services-on-SMS market which may help us a great deal, indirectly. Out in the hinterland (where an amazing %age of our usage is from), "Google" and "cool" aren't factors.

But then its big-G, and you gotta watch out!

So far, we're ahead on the breadth of data we've got covered (tho they have some nice features pre-configured), and the community is an invaluable tool to leave the bother of figuring out the answer you need, rather than a generic "result", and always so! But then, G can always catch up on this, that and everything else - I mean it just takes money and developers with brains, plus some time, and they have bigger advertising moolah (actually, just plain old moolah) than we do.

This is exactly what makes doing startups so much fun :D Spotting a future challenge/opportunity and donning the thinking cap on for the battles.

Its an even field, and we have a head start. The huge question is - how does a startup with a very limited marketing/publicity budget stay ahead? Of course its for us to figure out, and sure we'll be stretching our grey matter as best as we can, but if someone has a great idea or two, the coffee on us while we discuss it :)

BTW, we have a decent TT table in office if you'd rather play a game, instead. Drop by....

Sad (YHOO)

I've already been so proud of the good stuff I did there, and have a soft corner for Y!
Oh well, I hope the above is proven wrong...

Economic Cycles

VeloWala.org > What is Velocommerce?

While I've seen all of this, never thought of it in terms of a "last mile" delivery channel. Great insight, and advertising opportunity ?

Other ways of doing business : Toyota and the recession

American automakers are facing tough times, yet Toyota has so far avoided the usual reactions.

My gut feel is that Eastern businesses will evolve new mechanisms and ways of doing business, in how they acquire and retain employees, deal with customers, handle bad times, and conduct mergers and acquisitions. The "more recent" business truths (in the context of centuries old business philosophies) that gained foothold in the West primarily since WWII will be stressed, challenged - and we're already seeing some of that.

Zook for Cars, Jobs, Matrimonials. Tons more classifieds!

[ Another x-post from the Zook blog. ]

Its a bad economy - the dazzling new model will probably need to wait - get a bargain instead.

We’ve also added a bunch of jobs, real estate listings, services, even matrimonials.

One more reason to use Zook. And please keep watching this space for alerts on these soon.

These are courtesy our data partners Click.in, and OLX.

Taking Stock

[x-posting from the Zook blog]

Added Stock search on Zook - updated regularly with a small delay.

Check out how the Reliance Stocks are doing ? Its a pretty nervous market, and at least I’m watching a lot many of these and keeping my fingers crossed!

We’ll be adding Stock Alerts on Zook soon….

House Hunting - mobile!

[ X-posting from the Zook blog ]

Zook, with Click.in, now brings real estate classifieds to your phone.

PG Accommodation in Pune

Koramangala 3bhk for sale

Land in Coorg!

Gurgaon Apartments

Find your house, for rent or sale! Or find people who’re looking for the same…

Gurgaon Apartment wanted

We’ll be adding other classifieds soon too - jobs, stuff for sale.

Mobile Greetings for your friends, and more

Bunch of upgrades to Zook.

  • Find the alert you want to set. Try “alerts movies INOX bangalore” or “alerts electronics deals“ - essentially syntax independent after the “alerts ….” - find and set the deals/movies/events you want to follow, not the “best whatever” somebody else puts and pushes to you.
  • Greetings: Find a birthday/diwali/eid, etc, SMS forward, and set it up for the appropriate day as a mobile greeting! We’ll make sure its delivered on the right day and tell your friend you remembered them on the special day.
  • Web Search: We’ve integrated web search results on Zook - just in case the data isn’t there, or good enough right away. Over time, we’ll try pulling information out of that too so you don’t have to grapple with links and more links and more links….

Keep Zook.in!

What Are You Zook.in for ?

[ X-posting from the Zook blog ]

People solve a nice variety of needs through the Zook community. Here’s a few samples:

Sports news and updates:
all winners of 2008 US open
olympics medal tally

Distances, though we’re not a maps service:
Choutapal, nalgonda is how far from hyderbad

Meanings, reference, current affairs:
Mesogynist meaning
what is 123 agreement?
where do we’ve nuclear reactors in india?
“in the red” means?
“spaghetti bowl” means?

pnr status 140494xxxx

RelianceGSM’s website Address
electricity bill of CESC online

world fastest train?
Where is the place ‘Silent Hill’ actually located

Tough Ones!
rajasthani cook supplier Pune
world’s top most prizes after nobel?
malavan weather
Big purchasing dealer for mentha oil in barabanki (we got this!)

To anyone who asks “What kind of questions does Zook answer?”, or “How’re you like XYZ local search?”, the above should provide a clue. We’re amazed at how so many folks are actually SMSing in to figure out answers to whatever pops up in their heads - and the big challenge now is to get to the whole country, so there’s a new tool for the cliched “no such thing as a dumb question”.

Go ahead, ask! ANYthing that you think needs answering on the phone. Oh, there IS the usual “restaurants, movies, stuff” too. http://zook.in or sms query to 57575665

Web OScuse me?

The Ted Dziuba take on Chrome-as-the-Web-OS hypereviews in blogosphere.

I'm really beginning to like this guy. Not that I'm totally in agreement over everything he says - but he does pose some interesting questions about architectures, usability, user needs and industry craziness! Yeah, most people still the plain vanilla stuff, and whyever does everyone now need quad-cores and 4Gs of RAM ?

Pretty left-liberal take on the Web2.0. And it needed a bit of that, if you ask me :)

Blogger Rant

Why can I not set all my posts to be justified, or centered, or whatever by default? Invariably edit EVERY post after the first publish.

Edit: including this one :D

OpenID uncov'd

Ted Dziuba takes openID on in his own characteristic way.

Again, I tend to agree with him. Single sign on is a great idea within an organization/site across various tools/properties. Across, as Ted suggests, hey, recycle!

There's something about too much componentization that gets painful. Especially for the lay user. But then, a lot of the blogosphere couldn't care less about the lay user, could it ? Its so Cool 2.0 to servicify, so a service it shall be.

The Power of Community

Team-Bhp just helped trace and recover a stolen car!

Community at its best? Its heartening to see not everything is done for incentives and/or "social currency"

The economics of free

Rajesh Jain talks about free subscription services

The logic sounds correct - the only question is how quickly will advertisers jump on? In the interim, the costs for the service provider are quite daunting. Good to see the optimism about pull services too, esp search :)

The same, on his blog, with some background too.

This (Interesting!) Day in History

August 25th, 2008

Once in while we keep getting queries from people wanting to know what happened “today in history” - its a nice natural curiosity driven question that leads one into interesting journeys :) Aug 25th turns out to be an especially cool one -

today in history:

1609:Galileo shows his first telescope
1825:Uruguay declares independence from Brazil
1981:Voyager 2 at its closest to Saturn,in 1989 to Neptune
1991:Belarus declares independence from Soviet Union
More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_25

National Obsession Alerts :)

Ok, we just had to satisfy this major need that our users have been explicitly asking for, and that anyhow defines a major dimension of India in such a huge way.

Score kya hai?”

Click here, and sign up for free Cricket Score updates when matches happen. For now we’re doing this for India interest matches alone. But then thats a sixth of the world listening, isn’t it ? :)

Totally thrilling “query” to get for a search engine

We got this a couple of days ago :

Thank u for all ur response give by sms. on 10:50, Aug 19 from city:Mumbai

Its indeed heartwarming that someone not only found Zook useful, but thinks of us as a friend! Hoping to be as useful to many, many more ….

Nokia/iPhone kickstarted the mobile web ?

Apparently, Silicon Valley tends to think there was no mobile web before the iPhone.

I kinda buy Nokia's point of view about parochialism in the Valley on this count. Japan, Korea are way more determinant of what the mobile world looks like, and functionally, the iPhone is nowhere yet. Nokia are surely ahead on the how-to-make-connections works curve, and Apple hasn't yet figured out communication yet.

In the mobile world, it just might turn out that the Valley, for once, is in the well it cannot see beyond.

Yes, a larger %age of iPhone users may use the web on the phone - but a lot of these users might've waited for precisely that - to be able to use the web on the iPhone when its available. A lot many Nokia users probably bought a phone, and personal tool for one of many reasons, and some happened to use the web on it. The numbers are very different, and a direct comparison isn't really on.

Finally, here's some food for thought. They didn't include Korea and japan, though!

Bronze for India - Medal #2!

India gets in Second Medal at Beijing! Wrestler Sushil Kumar wins it in the 66kg freestyle.

Now we need one more from the boxers :) C'mon guys!

The iPhone is here. Or is it ?

The much awaited iPhone is here! The above is the Vodafone page announcing availability in two days time. Only - 31-36k!!!! ??? Isn't that too high ? A diehard Apple fan who's been awaiting this forever is now looking for decent alternatives.

I see the prices "correcting" in a few days. Especially in the light of the mixed reviews the iPhone has been getting - with 3G issues and the like.

HungryBangalore raises investment!

HungryBangalore - now HungryZone - have been working with Zook since their early days - and ours too. The closed their first round of funding yesterday, as reported by Pluggd.in.

Good to see their hard work and perseverance bear fruit. Of course, this is only a start, and while they were the first ones in this arena, there are more players now. How they differentiate and scale will be critical from hereon, and we'll help as best as we can.

Congarts Priyanka, Ritesh and gang. May you fill a lot many more tummies :)

Learning to Communicate

After thousands of years, we're still figuring out how to communicate, while major changes happen outside of our limited lives....

Am beginning to like this blog...

(Potentially unsavoury language warning)

An Article About Startups That Wasn't Written By A Pretentious Asshole - Ted Dziuba



On Specialization

One day you wake up and see the amazing skills you've honed over the last decade be replaced by a DIY-for-dummies wizard :)

The Anti, and the Virus

Something along these lines has been my argument against Windoze too, for both security and efficiency.
Also the whole paranoid mess that corporate IT security is - at large organizations.

ZookAlerts: Achtung! Free! Deals, Movies, Events

We added a bunch of alerts - customized - precise alerts - on Zook.
  • Olympics: This is medals, news updates, twice a day. Click this to set it straightaway!
    We're updating this once an hour.
  • Deals: Once you've picked a specific deal to see more details - you can set alerts for similar deals.
    We try and figure from your query + the current deal what category, place to set the deal alert for - since obviously a flood of deals for anything and everything would be either too huge to send over 2-3 smses, or completely random and not too useful for you.
    [ A lot many deals courtesy Open2Save.in ]
  • Movies: Get to know whats playing in your favourite theatre, for a specific language, in your city! We don't just send you the "top movies" across the whole city - cause traffic is a pain, innit ?
    Again, once you're in the details for a given movie, we'll set the appropriate alert for that language/theatre/city ourselves. No need to type in details.
    [ Movies data in part from BookMyShow.com ]
  • Events: Quite like Movies - nail down an interesting event - and let us know if you'd like to be alerted about similar events as and when they happen.
    [ Event data from BuzzInTown.com ]
We have already been running Traffic and Weather alerts for a while. Keep tabs on your [un]favourite intersection in 4 cities in India, and prepare for the rain, if any.

BookMyShow Searches "Shortcut"

If you wanna just look for BookMyShow tickets - when you already know you want tickets - here's how:
Then pick your show/theatre, and just hit "call".

Do let friends know about this - this is available across India - 30+ cities.

Did you see our Ad ?

Please take this 1 minute survey and let us know.

More scathing stuff scalability, distribution and all that. Yeah!


  • Scale : first problem ? Always ?
  • Hadoop/MapReduce/Distribute : the answer to everything ?
  • Large Farms ? Cool.
  • This language vs that. Hahahahaha.
  • Reality, dudes.
  • And common sense. That's tough, tho :)
Sometimes its kinda important to first express your problem, its solution, and then fit the jargon in. And very productive too.

Poor twitter got it bad tho. Sure, they were just trying to create good PR. Thats important, too.

Olympics Updates

Zook, like pretty much every other site and search out there, has Olympics Updates too. We'll keep this going all day so you can check whats happening - even on plain SMS! Just type "Olympics news" and SMS to 57575665.

And, btw, Congrats Abhinav Bindra for getting India its first individual gold!

Find and book movie tickets through Zook/BookMyShow!

Movies showtimes have been a popular search on Zook - and quite a few people have expressed the need to be able to close the loop on this. We recently started working with BookMyShow for getting you movie showtimes across the country, and along with that comes their excellent service which lets you call them and book tickets for your preferred show - right there, right then! You can even have the tickets home-delivered.

BookMyShow is a rapidly growing service for Movie Ticketing. Their parent company BigTree is one of the biggest players in IT-enabling the industry! Network 18 is also a major investor in them. And above all, they're totally cool people to work with :)

With this we've added a majot action - in fact our first pan India one. Now you can do these on Zook:
  • Reserve tables in Bangalore (Through HungryZone)
  • Request callbacks for ordering Food in Bangalore (HungryZone, again)
  • Book movie tickets for 600+ shows that BookMyShow services across 30+ cities!
BookMyShow will be adding a lot more cities soon, and we'll also add booking tickets through their WAP site as soon as that gets going!

Keep Zook.in - and get your tickets ANYwhere!

Edit: Oh yeah - please tell them you got there through Zook. Help our cause :)

Edit2: (I don't think BookMyShow - or anyone else - does PVR tickets right now - so it'll work for the others).

Learning, contd (mobile advertising)

The latest addition to my wisdom:
  • $100 lasts very little time for mobile advertising.
  • Its quite an effective medium
  • CTRs are between 0.39-1.63
  • Ads with images - however basic - are clicked way more often
  • There a lot many mobile web users in India
  • Usage is a little biased towards NSFW sites :)
  • People don't just click, but once they do, they do spend time on clicked site too.
This is, of course, from a very small and short observation sample and time period. But hey, you always start someplace.

Deals on Zook

Cross linking from the Zook Blog:

Sweet Deals!

Open2Save, as we've discovered, is one of the biggest aggregators of deals and they're expanding rapidly. I guess a deal is a good find when you're looking for something and want to look around for better offers.

Currency Crossie

Rohan made us an interesting one - you can find most answers on Zook - and you’ll get the others in moments if you Zook ‘em.

Play the crossie here!

180kmpl car


Bharat - one of Shubha's cousins - was involved in the above project. He's been pretty passionate about it - and good to see the young team manage both the tech and the PR this well. I'm hoping they are able to impact the auto scene in India building upon ideas demonstrated here - all thats needed is some faith and a free hand given by the suits at the auto companies. Or maybe there's value in striking out on their own - creating a consulting and maybe a components startup that helps multiple automakers achieve better efficiencies.

Why mobile search is sooo different

I just tried this query.

It actually worsened because of "cleaner" local results included because of some decent SEOing - and thats a huge case in point!

Obviously, keyword search is NOT going to cut it on the mobile. Users are unlikely to reframe queries too often, or spend too much time. In fact, will a purely index/repository based approach ever be enough ? Unless topical matching gets really smart, mobile search is still some time away from maturing.

Web search works this way :

There's this mother-of-all-repositories, currently called Google (given that Cuil managed to get them to respond, cannot take this for granted forever), and there's a crude keyword-based-matching over it. Yeah I know there's pagerank and all that, but that just improves a crude mechanism a little teeny bit, and if the words don't really get the page with the answer out - you try again. If you're a power user, you have a few more tricks up your sleeve (thats less than 2% users) but most users try different sets of keywords. Effort, time, and only YOU can understand your query.

Current state of "semantic" engines :

They disambiguate a bit, help with with some clusters, options etc. An improvement, sure, but quite quite far from the average Joe who "gets it" in a sec!

Powersets help, sure. Related stuff - related concepts - and you're a little closer.

Can an engine ever get close enough ?

Maybe not. But combining a few of these semantic search approached, measuring the weighted output - and refer it to someone if thats weak - is one way to go.

Or create a topic map of fragments of information, and search through the map. The map will HAVE to contain metadata about whats really jey to the topic, and what incidental. And does a set of related topics begin to match the key concepts ? If not, can people be involved in that step, to do a better match on the repository ?

Alright - thats a 20,000 feet level, but I'm not giving away more, for sure :) Some of this is happening at Ziva, some is planned. Its a long journey though.

Vanilla keyword search is surely not enough - and I'm sure a decade or so from now we'll look back and laugh at ourselves for being so in awe of the current mother-of-all-indices :)

Update: tried the same query on Zook - and got a response a response from a use in about 10 minutes (low priority pure info query, i guess) - 15 mill comps, 5 mill net connections, GoI aiming at 75mill comps, 45 mill net connections by 2010. Correct ? Will check...

Why the VC focused market is a thin slice

I've always held that VCs represent a narrow slice of all entrepreneurial activity, and there's dozens of ways to "go start your own thing" without being too hung up only on VC funding.

While deciding what you want to do, if you think without the VC funding constraint, you can think in terms of the natural way your particular idea or business should grow in. Not every business needs or can have 10x returns, or a global footprint. There are a huge number of ultra local, ultra satisfying yet profitable ventures possible that may not appeal to Venture Capital.

Of course, if it so happens that your idea seems a good fit for VC funding, use that for sure! They bring in lots of validation, and often visibility and help to the table. However, "landing VC funding" cannot be a goal for your venture.

To start thinking outside the box, get rid of this mother-of-all-boxes first :)

Edit: I typ(o)ed "Think" instead ot "Thin" in the Title - and thats a totally different discussion too :)

Free Stuff.....

Started yet another blog - to connect people who want to get rid of stuff, to people who want to help them get rid of it.


This is part social experiment, part curiosity, part a need waiting for a solution. Also, want to see whether the spirit of giving has any virality built into it.

Caught The Virus ? Need medicine ?

Here's what I just received in my inbox:



I am not gonna say u guys to believe me as I have also tried to earn online.

but some time it is fake (some time it is not working)....But after reading article Published in " Economics Times" under name as 'Now, get Paid for receiving SMS ads'.......I decided to sign in and with my amazement it really works so guys it's really easy way to earn with no time and Money to invest....

Check out details.....

<-------Some Site That Pays to receive Ads.----------------->

and Sign in get Paid for receiving SMS ads'get Paid for receiving SMS ads'

and earn Money by simply deleting SMS (message..... as I know u guys are not going to read advertisements... :)...it is very simple)

Economics Times link





Question : is it viral ? Do the companies pushing ads on this actually hope to benefit ? How long will this mode of virality continue to pay off ?

Is it even ethical ? Somehow - no clear answers.

Firefox Search Plugin

Murali, who interned with us recently, added this.

While we're a mobile search engine, this is handy too - often don't want to be bothered with "trying to find" stuff and just fire a query - if the answer's not there immediately I get an SMS, soon, with one. Try it out.

This is how we should scale - eh ?

Scathing post on scalability wet dreams.
Potentially Offensive Language alert, though cut through that all, and there are so many truths.



They say the true sign of a popular blog is in its interactivity - and this one gets comments real rarely. The number of page views, while not huge by any standards, has gone up steadily. So here's saying thanks, and Hi! If you're a real person, leave a comment :) Am dying to know who really reads this blog.

Edit: Also - do lemme know if this new template is better/worse.

Mobile Marketing Gotta Happen

Yahoo says so too :)

But 2010 - hmm - thats a long time to wait. Of course, there's usage thats gotta mature first, and availability of apps and content, and connectivity and speeds.

Of course, from our experience, users aren't merely looking for "local" info - but "any info". Of course the information is unlikely to be long research papers or analyses or descriptions, but there's a gap to fill to satisfy the urge of "I wanna know NOW!" for sure.

Edit: The Dhoni Effect nicely sums it up - and is pretty much what we've been seeing.

VAS is the next revenue driver

VAS will decide who wins telecom war

The opening lines are amazing - if, on and average, each user is interested in one bit of info, or one download, or one action that can be enabled on phones, the industry will see huge numbers! Wow.

I didn't know that, but someone did

Some interesting facts users found out on Zook from other people (for questions that did not get answers in the index):

vocabulary meaning of antispam:
An ideal anti-spam system rejects messages which are both bulk and unsolicited, letting pass those messages which are of specific personal relevance to the recipient (not "bulk"), and those which the recipient has expressly requested (not "unsolicited").

duty free amount limit upto which one can import goods into India through online shopping ?
Personal Items imported into India charged at 17.34% , if you declare items as gifts while importing into India on CN 22/23 forms then you get zero duty charged (below 10,000/-) more at http://is.gd/ZLA

how many people are born and die every second?
Worldwide? About 3-4 are born every second, and 2 people die every second. Some stats also point to 6-7 born and 3-4 dead every second.

What is the full name of M.S.Subbalakshmi
Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbalakshmi

Highest peak in Europe
Mont Blanc, 4810 metres, on the border between France and Italy Source: http://tinyurl.com/6gsysl

What is special on march 13th
Uranus was discovered by the British astronomer William Herschel on March 13.

We now need to start recognising and capturing "facts" too - there's a huge need for fulfilling curiosity and not everyone has a comp, or gprs, or even time for web-searching stuff.

Zook has many faces :)

Context, Semantics, Scary!

Thats got to be one of the better takes I've seen on the machines taking over ;)

ICICI smsNcash


The "phata note" has been replicated! And this is so far the easiest mechanism to pay others from your bank account - even remotely! Sadly, cannot be initiated from a phone - that'd make it ultra cool. It'll beat all the existing m-payment channels hands down.

Powerpoint Tricks - a treat!

How not to PowerPoint!

The data slide bit is especially useful :)


We haven't got a formal one running yet, but here's a sample of the queries we've been getting:

shraddha vadodara
de taali chennai
sizzlers bangalore
flambe outer ring road
Chandigarh HR
bial to btm
Who is the leader of BJP
SBI Magnum fund NAV
carpenters sarjapura road
difference between recieve and receive
sun direct introduce Rs. 15 to 140. Channel detail about different pack
Jahnavi college Hyderabad
HBO sat night movies
Nokia Care Behrampore
Reliance GSM helpline

  • People have a lot of different kind of questions on the phone!
  • A proper matching engine is a must - keywords fail on intent real bad.
  • Thankfully, a lot many do NOT think of us as "local search". Its mainly the tech/Bangalore crowd which has this image issue so far. Hmm, need to fix that.
  • The community IS playing a crucial role. Need to start involving a large user base next.
In some sense, with the last step, information will get "open sourced" - its not important that is live on our servers, but as long as the one who needs finds the one who knows, we're doing our jobs.

Of course, its imoprtant to keep mining existing/expressed information, such that this traffic may be optimized.

Zook Updates

Zook Updates Presentation:

We added BIAL bus routes - as a major one for Bangalore folks.

And, btw, the Zook blog is finally alive. Needs some polish, but its up for good, now.

Solve This!

Contests2Win lets you create your own crossie - here's a Zook-powered one. You might need to search on Zook to find answers. Try it:


Its not very pretty - but then its auto-generated.

Events! Zook/BuzzInTown

We went live with BuzzInTown events on Zook. We now have really good event coverage thanks to the excellent work BuzzInTown have done is establishing a relationship with all the key players in the industry. We will soon be adding some ticketing options and other useful actions on this as part of the next phase of the rollout.

Got some coverage on Pluggd too. Thanks Ashish!

This is available in 10 cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad Jaipur, Lucknow and Bangalore and BIT is working furiously at adding more. So go ahead and find that concert that'll make this a terriffic weekend...

Changing the world is simpler than you think


Had heard about this guy from someone recently, and Pluggd confirmed this. Its amazing how rethinking status quo can be so life changing - and when its for stuff like this with a real solid impact, its very heartening. Wishing this venture all the best - the best thing it ensures is more food availability for the same output! And in a very eco-friendly and cost effective manner too.

Post Offices CRM

Am expecting a parcel through Speedpost, and its been a while in transit. Decided to test my luck and try and find out on the phone. Found the number on Zook, and called up.

  • Someone actually picked the phone up
  • He patiently heard my case, and asked me for the delivery number or some such, which I did not have
  • He actually asked someone about it and explained to me that the guy responsible would be in at 10 and if I could please call up then.
Another instance of government machinery working well and being surprisingly pleasant to interface with.

The Address:

Post Office, Hsr Lyt,
No.21,Bda Complex,Hsr Layout,Bangalore- 560102

Message Queues : Apologies

We've had some grief at the SMSC end - with a bunch of messages caught up in some "congestion" and some, I guess, dropped. Just realized it this morning.

Of course they did a software upgrade.

Apologies if some queries got a delayed response, or worse, Zook never got back to you.

We've followed up to try and ensure zero repeats of this, and will monitor things more closely. We're also adding a ton of very useful data directly and through some exciting partnerships which we should be announcing over the weekend.

Keep Zook.in!

Toy train? Station? A Whole miniature city in Pune!

A query came in for: Railway Museum Pune and while surfing our logs, this caught my fancy.


Joshis Museum of Miniature Railways
17/1 B/2 GA Kulkarni Rd,
Next to Sangam Press,
Kothrud, Pune 38
+912025435378 +912025454474

From the site:

  • There are 65 signals, 26 points, fences, lampposts, flyovers, etc. which have been manufactured by hand using chemical etching techniques.
  • The entire layout can be operated manually or can be computer controlled.
  • Fully functional station yard with 6 platforms, announcement systems, 3 main lines, goods loading facilities, hump shunting, a turntable, crane, etc.
Wow - if I were in Pune, I'd be calling Mr. Ravi and fixing up and appointment for the kids, heck no, for myself to visit this fascinating world this weekend!

I'm discovering so much on Zook, myself :)

"Game events conducted in Tamil Nadu sub-inspector exam"

A user wanted to know more about the process for a Sub-Inspectors post in TN. This was one of the many queries s/he fired towards that end. Amazing how users seek info, even on the move. Its facts, after all, from our point of view, asked through pretty specific questions. Here goes....

Endurance Test - Run 1500m in 7 Min
Physical efficiency:
(min qualifying 6/15)
100m: 15s - 2marks, in 13.5s - 5 marks
400m: 80s - 2marks, 70s - 5 marks
2.Long Jump:3.8m-2marks, 4.5m-5marks
High Jump: 1.2m-2marks, 1.4m-5marks
3.Rope Climbing: 5m-2marks,6m-5marks

Source: http://www.tn.gov.in/tnusrb/annexure2.pdf

Usability? Check. Now try another hat...

Bill Gates' mail about his frustration with unfriendly MS usability.

Often we assume many things about our own software - and while the above piece is more of a "Even Gates cannot stand MS software" one, it does highlight how easily software often ends up as a frustrating, non-intuitive piece of technology for the end user. The small things really really count, and developers need to keep putting themselves is users' shoes time and again to test with as little bias as possible. Or better still, ask someone who's not really been associated with the product to try it out.

The "separation", from my limited experience with startup life, is extremely tough to achieve. People play multiple roles, and the lines keep getting blurred, and what suffers is how the code develops, is tested, and very importantly, deployed. The little things one did as part of the larger behemoths - build-environment, shiphome, QA setups, release notes, operational guides - all start to have more meaning to them than they did when you merely found them bothersome stuff you had to put up with :)

Look what Sundar did!!!!!!!!!


We'd heard about it in office - and now its beginning to catch on in the Indian blogosphere too. Good stuff, Sundar.

I'm really hoping this has some positive impact on the rapidly falling Yahoo stock.

How heavy are Whales, really?

A user was Zook.in for this yesterday, and the query caught my eye. My son often takes me down these trips where - for want of internet access or laziness to "switch on" - I end up giving him either hand wavy answers, or just ignore him if I'm really stumped.

One major use-case for mobile search ?


Blue Whales can weigh upto 181 metric tonnes!
Right/50 (est.)
Smaller whales weigh in at a mere 4-6 tonnes. Heavy, huh ?
--Zook on sms:57575665--

Zoho Business is very useful

Simple collaboration - docs, spreadsheets, tasks, contacts, calendar, shareable across the team, and you can actually run multiple orgs on it too. Quite impressed, from a small org's point of view.

Check it out.

The LBS Dream


Thanks Siva, for the link.

LBS, imo, has always been a bit-feature that will be useful for a small subset of use cases - say your car breaks down and you need to know who the closest emergency service is, or in case you want the closest service provider for stuff the service quality is kinda standardized for. For hospitals and schools and even bike mechanics (if you bike seriously), you'd hardly be too worried about proximity. And as the article above we discusses it, for a whole lot of situations, we already have our paths known, or the means to them clear. There are a few "I'm stuck" cases where LBS will help, but thats about it.

Location specific ads, though, sound like a better idea. Especially for deals, offers, specials and new-store-in-you-area announcements.

The mobile is still a very unkmown, not-close-to-be-mature space for life-tools.

Fast Zook.in again

Phew! We migrated servers since we figured out certain mySql issues (thanks Nikhil!) on the old one - and there wasn't really a "native" 5.0 for that.

End result : Zook is way quicker than it had come to be - and we can stop apologizing for it now :)

Keep zook.in !

Coming Soon : "We've fed the answers back into the machine!"

Fire fox crash on "Browse"...

[#FL-1122] Firefox /Gecko Crashes when trying to browse local folder to upload picture - Foresight Linux JIRA - issue tracker

I faced the same and a quick search revealed others had faced it too. How about some basic regression testing, guys?

Zook downtime

Ladies and gentlemen, we've hit some rough weather. Zook's been going down a lot yesterday since we made some "upgrades" at the backend, and we're working to find the spook in the works. Please bear with us while we strive to get back to normal a.s.ap. Sorry about the irritation caused.

Keep zook.in!

Did u see that ad ?

Curious to understand how Graphics work out on mobile screens.

[ BTW, it'll work only for delhi related queries ]

Search Next.0

Powerset vs. Cognition: A Semantic Search Shoot-out - GigaOM

The comparo part of the above is a good read, though given that both Powerset and Cognition must be improving stuff behind the scenes, and big G has so much "legacy" to deal with, I'm not sure there are any conclusions to be drawn.

Whats more interesting is the second part of the article where Nitin discusses what kinds of disruption search companies could shoot for. At Ziva, we're doing a couple of things already, and then some!

a) Mobile specific focus. There's a lot of folks out there who have not used "web search". And I include a fair number of techies in this - given how many questions I see in my mailbox, IM windows and even when people call up to ask for stuff thats actually possible to find on a search engine. There are those who "can search" and those who cannot, for a variety of reasons ranging from access to discomfort.

b) Answers, not links. Semantic Search/disambiguation/NLP etc are tech-friendly ideas that the end user doesn't really connect to. What they need is an answer to a need. On the mobile, its even more extreme - cause the effort a user usually needs to put into a web search engine to clarify sense etc is just not feasible on the phone. Also, not every question has an answer in a repository. To an end user, these are NOT separate use cases.

c) Instant answers, or surely-relevant one ? Like Nitin points out, we've too believed that not all questions need a resopnse in a flash. There are a huge range of response times which are acceptable for different kinds of questions. Involving the community expands the range of questions that can be answered to near-infinite, and the fact that the asnwers may come a few minutes later is more than compensated for by the relevance of the answer.

Downgrade for free!!!

Microsoft gets Desperate to sell Vista. Will offer XP for free |Technology and Business Startups in India

Is MS beginning to lose it? There's this talk of the mesh and I have reason to believe it *will* see light of day later this year. I guess the next couple of years will be make or break for the MS Kingdom.

Of course, I'd first need to downgrade from Ubuntu ;)

Coverage in the Telegraph, Kolkata

Dial M for more The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata)

Shrabonti Bagchi of the Telegraph, Kolkata did a story on what else you can do with your phone. Zook got covered in this article. It was nice to see all the people we know in this space in there too :)

Ads on Zook

We've started running a few ads on Zook! These are from partners, as well as advertisers.

Hack day highs

We did the demos around 4ish - 24 hours after we'd started. Some of the guys had actually stayed overnight, and the enthusiasm was amazing. What got done was also like a virtual wishlist of stuff we'd discussed or wanted earlier, and some cool ideas we would never have visited otherwise. The demos covered everything from better scaling for the search server, to new methods to use and find Zook, to new kinds of data we can add using some tools, and even a easy-to-use client for phones!

Details? Not sure how much can be divulged. There's some work needed before this stuff sees the light of day. What I can say is that I'm happy to be in the company of such a enthusiastic and capable set of people.

Oh, and it all ended with a short visit to LoR, which was my first pub trip in years and I liked the music they played!

Zook's graphs!

Here's a part of the the user graph we saw as part of one of the hackday tricks! We were quite surprised to see we've done quite well as a social network, though that was hardly the idea!

Its a pretty connected world, eh ? And one's users are really one's best friends, in this case.

Code a thought - Zook Hack Day

Today we're having a hack day in office. Started a little late and there's lots of ideas that have been floating around in anticipation. If all goes well, there'll be a few cool add-ons you might see soon on Zook!

Is there anything anyone would like to see on Zook? Let me know.

New look Zook [logo]

We decided to redo the redone logo, and here's the final (?) result:

http://zook.in or sms query to 57575665

More Press

AltSearchEngines partnered with MSearchGroove and mentioned Ziva in the context of this announcement.
TheSmartTechie also profiled Ziva in detail.

ET covers Zook

Economic Times and their first cousin, Indiatimes, ran a good story on Ziva/Zook.

Friendly reminder - you can SMS your query for anything you want to know to 57575665 in India. You'll get the answer either right then, or a couple of minutes later from the community.

Tejit Acquired

SezWho Seeks Context With An Acquisition

Indushekhar Khaitan, a batchmate of mine, has been working with a couple of other guys on some exciting stuff at the company he founded - Tejit. Good to see early success, holds a lot of hope for entrepreneurs. Congrats, Indus!

Small big innovation towards plastic degradation?

TheRecord.com - CanadaWorld - WCI student isolates microbe that lunches on plastic bags

Sounds simplistic, but I'm sure a lot of "wow" stuff gets overlooked for similar reasons. While there is some cynicism, am staying positive on this till there is definitive negative news. If true, this guy should get the biggest VC funding to start his company around this idea - this will do us all a huge favour - way more important than anything else we've "invented" in the last couple of decades.

Product Management

Coffee With Sean Johnson - Product Manager, IBM Content Discovery Group » Coffee With Sundar

Tweener, eh ?

Its a good interview that describes the role in a very brief space. Of course, there are challenges galore especially in a startup, where there's so many "good ideas", "must dos" and often very little to go by wrt validating X vs Y need.

Mobile Search Revenues

Mobile Search Advertising To Grow From $445 Million This Year To $2 Billion By 2013: Report - washingtonpost.com

Does anyone have India specific numbers? Rumours, grapevine? Totals, big spends?

The whole privacy debate

Search Insider » Blog Archive » Mobile, Local, Social, Invisible

Its true that the concept of fiber/privacy isn't always well-internalized, and given the utility of the service, people may tolerate more than seems likely. On the other hand, a few instances of abuse getting publicity will turn that argument on its head pretty quick.

Entrepreneurship along a different dimension ?

open free world: Roy's Experiments with Life

Its anyhow about exploring, creating value, starting something new, daring to think different, bring value to an existing space and work hard, for immense amounts of satisfaction. No 10x scale, yes, but not everything needs to - ?

There's all kinds of biz.

Quit your job! - (37signals)

A very nice point made in the article above about the whole "startup" thingy. Its not just the billion dollar dreams, VC funding, eyeballs, termsheets, IPOs that make entrepreneurs and define what they do. Its the following-your-heart on a lark, not necessarily being bogged down with growth and targets but the desire to achieve something that is either creative, or redefines either you or what you do. I'm not saying the growth and dollars should not be part of this, just that they're non-essential ingredients for some forms of entrepreneurship.

, The Rainwater Club, BumsOnTheSaddle are a few that come to mind, and heart :)

Social Networking that works

Adventure - ExpressIndia.Com

I've been at Team-BHP for a while now. This kind of networking is actually useful, and has a real world equivalent too. The community has grown rapidly over the last couple of years, and even more importantly, the exchange on this forum is actually very useful, and even has real world economic significance. Its quite tightly managed, with slang, hollow bravado, trolling, unnecessary threads being thwarted early, and there's a strong emphasis on safety (seatbelts, ABS, good tyres), and driving safely. The network of cities/trusted vendors/workshops, routes/destinations and other great advice that one has access to on this forum have made it the best automotive destination in the country.

The best part ? Its not even a startup :)

More Ubuntu Mainstreaming

ckunte.com | The joy of using Ubuntu

Also read somewhere today that a lot of the expansion in the desktop market - especially in the developing world - is non-Windows. There's hope! :)

Bigger than Tata-JLR ?

DNA - India - Punjab goes on Mercedes overdrive! - Daily News & Analysis

Hmm, did Merc actually call Ludhiana the Merc capital of the world ? I'm sure they've been positively surprised beyond their wildest dreams, tho. Is there a lesson here for startups, IT biggies, etc al ? There is paying power, and a large second tier city market. Its just waiting for the right product, at the right (perceived) value...

Great Escape

The Great Escape on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Have seen it earlier - but its still funny :) So blogging away....

Celebrations soon ? The Future for Mobile Search...

Search for the mobile masses - RCR Wireless News

Things sure look positive in the days ahead for Mobile Search. And honestly, this is something the biggies have not cracked yet - so there's a huge opportunity for all of us. Zook is surely beginning to hit the "right time, right place" zone, and we just need to ensure we get the nmessage out to as many people as possible. That is the single biggest challenge right now.

would love to hear your ideas, feedback, thoughts - esp wrt what you think will make search on the phone click.

For now - we're merely saying you'll always get an answer - that should be worth something to users on the move. Do help spread the word - even its only a 'when you're really stuck' usage to start with.

Where ? Point your phone's browser to http://zook.in or sms ANY query to 57575665 (thats 5757-LOOK if you want to remember things easily).

Startup !

Spot Puncher Services? | Bangalore Metblogs

This is indeed "enterprising". Disruptive, existing market, probably builds on emerging needs (if they can handle tubeless tyres, i.e.). Bangalore indeed is getting to be the startup capital of the country, at least! Very life 2.0 :)

Spokeo alert/apologies

I responded to a friend's request to signup for Spokeo - with my gmail id.
Without realizing it, in a few moments, effectively ended up spamming all contacts in my address book - tried sending apology mails - after the first lot seem to not be able to send mails using my gmail account any more. For those of you who got that Spokeo spam - my apologies.

Ah! Pain!

Will I/everyone be working for MS some day ?

Microsoft Announces Offer to Acquire Fast Search & Transfer: Companies’ combined expertise, technology will help businesses capitalize on the power of enterprise search.

I quite like FAST from whatever I've seen of them. Yahoo had bought the vertical search engine earlier, and they've been growing a lot recently. Ms gobbling them up too will be sad. Unless, of course, Yahoo, FAST etc manage to change MS enough to make it work and behave like a more lightweight, smaller company.

Maybe MS will just breakup into smaller, faster orgs and finally start competing and innovating at the same rate once these acquisitions come through. Hmmm, some scope for optimism here!

Keep zook.in! Ads ....

Stop - Zook - Go!

Questions. Answers. Zook!

[ Edit: Drat - got the title of the post wrong earlier ]

Yahoo - options

Some questions, ideas. [ Hopefully Y! will survive the MS attempt. Small chance but it ain't over. ]
  • Who says only search is monetizable? Mail. Messenger. Groups. Who's the king ? Focus on making something off those - don't keep repeating whats already been said - "but search is where the money is". Thats true only cause big G said it first. Make the advertising *compelling*
  • Why is Groups such a separate silo ? Its the most powerful resource Yahoo has. Way before "social networking" became the huge phrase it is now there was useful relevant stuff happening on Groups - and I even know of brands who try an engage active groups for informal surveys etc.
    • Why is there no flickr/groups integration? Flickr has loyalists, and Groups id verrry sticky
  • Adopt Pidgin. Don't give up on the numerous non Windoze users. They're loyal if you are.
  • Maps - do it different. Especially in the emerging markets. India/China - there's a story waiting to happen to integrate with real life - offline+online combinations.
  • Mobile - G! has NOT figured it out yet. Search, or maps, or local, or anything.
  • Search - work in stealth on something totally different. The current generation is a naive version 1 - and 3 years hence can be a very different market. Outsource the current search to G!
This is work in progress. Will add more. Ideas welcome.

New Look Zook

Almost forgot - Zook's moved to a new look and feel including the new logo above.

This is a pro job unlike the lemme-try-my-hand job we did earlier. It communicates (we hope) the simplicity that the search brings to the user for search needs, and emphasizes the community aspect of the story too. There's a similar Ziva identity which will get unveiled soon.

Meanwhile, Zook has added more data, more cities and we now look for stuff in the neighbourhood of areas you mention too - so don't worry too much if the Fabmall you're looking for in HSR isnt there.

Yahoos Welcome! [ Microsoft's potential Yahoo takeover ]

You've probably heard about this from N different sources by now.

Read this for context, too. Its a good analysis - integration-story wise and what it may mean to the developers and the hiring scene!

First up - all Yahoos who may not want to identify with the Redmond Giant are welcome at Ziva :D There's plenty of exciting work, both tech - IR, monetization, scaling up - and in building the brand both in the consumer and monetization space.

I cannot fathom how two pretty-much-the-opposite-of-each-other places will merge. Maybe MS should just keep Yahoo alive as a totally separate workplace, brand and just help out with corporate sales, and - well - does MS understand anything at all in the internet space ? OTOH, there's tons from Yahoo they could use inside MS - and use the Yahoo brand for pushing what they (might have) wanted to do with Live/Office online. But its a very huge expense for that alone.

I would love to believe Yahoo could have clawed its way back in terms of marketshare and profitability - but this might merely stem from some romanticism and wistfulness as part of my ex-Yahoo self. Microsoft was also part of the "other" for the longest time at Yahoo, so its even more painful.

Again, for all Yahoos who feel this pain and would rather find another place to relive the challenges, tech, possibility that the legend of Y once represented, you're welcome.

careers -AT- zivasoftware.com Mention "Ex-Yahoo" in the subject for an immediate read :)

Weather @ Zook

Trip to Goa ? Check out whats its gonna be like from ur phone - just Zook it!

Zook now has weather updates for 450+ destinations across India. Its really freezing up there in Manali! (Must-go-in-winter)

There's also tons of new data for cities across the country. From movies across Kerala to restaurants in Jaipur. Keep watching this space for more on this front coming this week.

Find Ziva!

Our new office:


Here's wishing y'all a great Zero Eight.


* Rise of the mobile search
* Ladakh Ride
* Improvement in Bangalore Traffic
* The stock market repeats the 07 story

Well, one can always wish for all, cant one :) ?

Mint Condition (Press coverage)

Ten start-ups to watch for in the new year - livemint

Ziva got picked for Mint's 10-to-watch for 2008, plus theres a decent mugshot of Ajay and ur truly too.

[ Sadly, Gowri got missed out as one of the co-founders, and the pic too. ]

[ And, just to remind y'all again - we're hiring ]