Indicus NetLabs project promises to do a Hindi Google

Priyanka Vyas

New Delhi, Sept. 11

Come January and the country's regional language population would be able to cross over to a new frontier - the English centric world of Internet.

A new software that is being developed promises that even a school drop-out mother can educate her child through Internet and browse millions of Web pages to confirm the advice of her local village `hakim' or find out how she can exercise her rights. Instead of waiting for keyboards to be launched in regional languages, Delhi- based Indicus NetLabs Pvt Ltd has initiated project Raftaar, a search engine in the Hindi language with an inbuilt on-screen Hindi keyboard. This makes it easier for semi literate people to click the mouse on the corresponding Hindi alphabets on the screen. In time, Raftaar has the potential to become the language version of Google.

While search engines in various languages have been introduced earlier, the need for users to be adept in English renders them practically of little value to those they are targeted at. With the new software, all one needs to do is log on to the Web site after which the on-screen keyboard in the Indian language will take its users into the digital world of information.

Tie-ups

The company has already tied up with the matrimonial Web site `Jeevan Sathi' to use its tool and is also in talks with other service providers. It is also in talks with the Government to use its software, which could provide the users all the information within the specific department as well as other data that is applicable to the search. While Hindi is the first language it is to be introduced in, Indicus plans to have the software available in other languages soon.

Special features

With an initial investment of Rs 20 lakh, the project was started a year ago. The trial version of the software made its debut last month on August 15. To mark Hindi Divas on September 14, the software will also be armed with a spell check for its search and a thesaurus for related words in Hindi. The company will be sourcing contents from Web pages that are available in Hindi and some dead sites.

But would a product such as this have a sizable market? That's the challenge Raftaar is willing to face. Said Mr Peeyush Bajpai, Director, Raftaar, "Not many players consider to enter this market presuming there is no demand from this segment. However we want to break this notion. With broadband entering the rural scene, the market will open up." However, Raftaar acknowledges a limitation that it is facing. It's Web site address would still be in English and it would have to wait till the World Wide Web Consortium makes it possible for Web addresses to be typed in Indian languages.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 12, 2006)
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