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

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

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 ]
  • 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 ]
  • 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 ]
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 - 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.