(Updated: To add Monster, Sulekha and Indiaproperty search via SMS 2.0)

Affle has integrated search into its popular SMS 2.0 application. I installed the application on Sunday and gave it ago. The search services included in SMS 2.0:

Airtel Live: Web Search powered by Google
Web-Live Search: Web Search powered by MSN
City Search: Powered by AskLaila
Job Search: Powered by Naukri (Info Edge), Monster and maybe others. Also pushing alerts – Rs. 10 for 10 days of SMS alerts
Property Search: Powered by 99Acres (Info Edge), Sulekha, Indiaproperty and maybe others. Also Rs. 20 for 10 SMS alerts

Some issues:
— The job search needs work. Only one job/property is displayed per search, and that too doesn’t utilize the location input offered by the mobile. For example – I searched for “Designer” and got a result from Mumbai, though I’m searching from Delhi. No option to switch from a Jewelery designer to a Web designer (Context). Verdict: Fails
— City search utilizes the locational input, but doesn’t have the option to change cities. For example, if I’m looking for a particular shop in Mumbai, but searching from Delhi, I don’t have a choice.

The opportunity for Affle
At over 750,000 subscribers (claimed), apart from the SIM Toolkit from a mobile operator or the mobile menu of a handset manufacturer, SMS 2.0 might just be the most well spread or distributed mobile application in India. Yet, the distribution of the mobile operator and handset manufacturer will be limited by their user base, while Affle has the opportunity of being pan-operator, and pan-handset manufacturer. Regular usage is also guaranteed, given that the application replaces the handsets default SMS application. Thus, with just upgrades alone, SMS 2.0 can integrate more services into the application.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these service providers or even content owners are actually paying for their content being displayed on SMS 2.0, or for enabling their search. A year or so ago, at a Mobile Monday in Delhi, the opportunity for a mobile desktop for services had been mentioned. The challenge for Affle lies is ensuring that the application remains uncomplicated, despite the integration of more services. The next big step for Affle would be to tie up with a mobile handset manufacturer for a pre-loaded application, or to offer their services to subscribers of other mobile operators as well. They can’t remain an Airtel-only app.

But above all, Affle needs to offer local language SMS capability, given that that’s where the next level of mobile growth is coming from.

What surprises me
is that no one has put out a competing product in the market, with other operators.

Disclosure: Affle’s Job and Property searches are powered by Info Edge India, of which I have a small number of shares.