logo-askmeInfomedia18‘s long awaited local search business AskMe.in looks like it’s gearing up for a launch, and has shared a few details of what the service will offer online. Infomedia18 publishes the business directory InfoMedia Yellow Pages in India, and its previous attempts at an online directory search (Yellowpages.co.in) and general classifieds (HotFrog.in) haven’t really been challengers for the top spot in the online space. AskMe.in is appears to be taking a rather interesting approach:

Click To Call

First and foremost, it is allowing users to connect with a free “Click to Call” service. Now Click to Call has been attempted before: Google had launched Click2Call in India two years ago. You fed in your number, pressed the’Connect for Free’ button , and the service would call you up from a private number, and connect you with the vendor. The risk with Click2Call is that it is prone to abuse and pranks. I could easily give your number via the web, unless I’m registered. Social Networking website ibibo had a free calling feature that allowed registered users to call for free. Registration and verification of users making the call is important, but then again, these are impulse decisions that may not succeed if users are asked to register. Will be interesting to see how this is implemented.

google-click2call-india-icici-20070407

Best Deals?

The more interesting part of that landing page is the line “Get the best deals as we get vendors to compete for your requirement”. This hints at (we can’t be too sure until the site launches) that users could be asked for permission to share their contact details with multiple vendors, who can then pitch for deals. This would be monetization via lead generation. Seeking permission would be a good idea: there have been instances when I’ve called up JustDial for information, and received calls from vendors immediately after, despite not having been asked for permission to share my information. A vendor had told me then that he paid Rs. 70 for such leads. Note that this was around a year and a half ago.

One implementation that I’d really like to see is a connected business listings service, where buyers can upload details of work that they need to get done, and sellers can view these leads. Maybe there could be a price discovery system involved, where a user can publish a budget, and companies can bid for it. That’ll help consumers get the best deal. As of today, though, we don’t know if AskMe.in has planned to do this.

Plans For A Voice Based Service?

Another thing to keep in mind is the whole phone service element. JustDial has a call center that offers users information services, and this kind of a model isn’t very scalable. As the number of queries increase, you’ll have to hire more and more people to service them. The solution lies in automating the querying with a voice recognition system. This is where, in all probability, a company like Ubona can come in. Ubona had received a Series A investment from Network18s VC & PE arm Capital18, and the Network18 group also owns a majority stake in Infomedia18.

AskMe.in will compete with the likes of AskLaila, Google, GETIT Yellow Pages, Yahoo funded Call Ezee, and several others.

Related:
— GETIT Yellow Pages Gets $4 Million From Helion Ventures
— Yahoo Picks Up 30% Stake In Local Info Company INMC
— Voice Search Engine Ubona Gets Funding From Capital18; Thoughts On Voice Search