Update (Nikhil adds): We’d written about it first over a month ago, when Timescity.com was behind a landing page, and now the veil has been lifted. We haven’t noticed any significant changes to the site over a month. One element we hadn’t mentioned earlier was registration, which allows users to review restaurants, add photographs, share favorite locations with others, and get regular updates. One hitch: with TimesCity, Indiatimes has created yet another set of logins. They already have separate logins for Indiatimes and itimes. So much for detecting usage patterns of registered users across all their properties. Correction: users with Indiatimes email IDs can log into TimesCity, but will need to sign in separately. At the same time, those without Indiatimes IDs can register separately for TimesCity accounts.

Original Story (Feb 10th 2010): With local search portals sprouting up on the internet and starting to engage Internet users, BCCL-owned TimesCity.com, probably the oldest online city guide in India, has been overhauled completely to compete against the likes of Asklaila.com, Burrp.com, The City Guide (which also powers NDTV’s city search vertical), and the most recently launched Ybrant Digital’s YReach.

Whats New?

In short, the whole website. No sign of ‘the three coloured buildings and the sun in behind logo’. The new site has a cool red, black and white colour scheme with light gray’s breaking the monotony. The site uses bold and large fonts in some sections, has a NewYorker like old world charm, and a three column layout.

This site has a young feel with funky, slightly clinched titles such as the review section is named Served fresh, there is a tab named Anyone for Dessert? that takes to to a list of sweets shops in the city with ratings from the editor, price range and type of cuisine. Other interesting titles are ‘Celeb’s Favourite Hangouts’, ‘Cocktails and Moonlit Nights’ and ‘Get Jiggy with it!’. Yes, indeed.

There is a section at the bottom of the page, where there are more ways to search for restaurants and bars & pubs. Few of the categories include ‘Best Places For Two To Dine’; ‘Sweet Tooth? Confectionary Shops’; ‘All Is Well! Bars To Visit’. The most interesting listing in the site is the search for chaat/roadside eatieries which has been named, the Great Indian Street Food.

Restaurants and nightlife haunts have also been grouped as being ‘Good’, ‘Awarded’ and ‘Popular’. The other major search category is in terms of localities. For Delhi, localities such as Connaught Place, Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony to name a few, have been listed.

SMS Search; Map

Similar to Askalila, users can also request results via SMS by sending an SMS titled ASK followed by locality and cuisine to 58888 and TimesCity.com will reply back its suggestions. Asklaila has also recently launched its services with a long code as well. The search results can also be viewed on Google maps. Maybe it could add traffic info?

What’s Missing

Similar to YReach, the overhauled TimesCity.com seems to have been launched in a hurry. Only four cities: Mumbai, Goa, Delhi and Chennai are available. Competitors such as The City Guide, Asklaila and Burrp offer search in 8 to 12 cities.

The site is in sync with two publications by the group – the Times Food Guide and Time Nightlife Guide. Users can search for a good place to eat at any time of the day as well as night-life in a city: but nothing else. This is a disadvantage as sites offer a host of information on lifestyle, events and emergency products and services within a city. In comparison to Burrp or even the new entrant YSearch, which allow users to even book movie tickets online, TimesCity.com lags in these features. Events, stories & articles are coming up on the website soon. Overall, the site has focused too strongly on food: let’s hope the new categories redeem the site.

Related:

Ybrant Digital Launches City Search Portal YReach; Our Review
Updated: JustDial Accuses Infomedia18’s Askme.in Of Database Theft
NDTV Ties-Up With The City Guide
AskLaila Launches Call Center Based Voice Search; Why Not Automated?
Asklaila Powers HindustanTimes.com & Reuters India City Search