Buzzanytime doing an Innoz with SMS search; will human touch, multiple language options get it going?

Buzzanytime, an SMS-based question & answer service owned and operated by Indore-based ARK Mobile Search Pvt Ltd, is looking to tap into 700 million active mobile users in the country to grow its business.

Set up last September by the siblings Rashmi and Amit Mehta, along with Anurag Arya, Buzzanytime claims its SMS search service has a 'human touch' (read human operators) – so that it is possible to decipher abbreviations or regional language queries (Hindi, for instance) typed out using English alphabets. Customers can type in a query on any topic and send it to 9220093333. A reply will come within minutes, depending on the complexity of the query. While the system can respond to simple queries, there is a team in place to process complex queries and send replies. However, it will not take more than 5-7 minutes to send the answer.

"There could be several questions which the system is unable to recognise due to spellings, abbreviations or language issues (you often get queries like Taj Mahal kaha hai?). That is where human intervention is needed to understand a customer's query and provide a relevant answer. For complex queries, our focus is more on quality of the answer rather that the turnaround time." explained Rashmi.

Both Rashmi Mehta and Anurag Arya hold MBA degrees from Mumbai-based Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) while Amit Mehta is an engineering graduate from R.V. College of Engineering, Bangalore.

Buzzanytime is currently in beta, but still claims to clock around 200-300 queries a day. The firm is planning to come up with a marketing campaign soon and expects the numbers to grow to at least 5,000 a day by the end of June.

But will it be able to compete with the likes of Innoz, who has already gained a firm foothold in India and other South-east Asian countries?

"Although we are in the same space, we are doing things quite differently and we feel that the market is very huge. There are 700 million active mobile subscribers in India, out of which Innoz has about 12 million unique customers. So there is still a huge and untapped market. Moreover, we are looking to introduce queries in several regional languages such as Hindi, Bengali and more. Once that is done, one can ask questions in his/her own language and will get the reply in the same language. There is definitely good scope for a service like this," added Rashmi.

Interestingly, the startup provides SMS search for both feature phones (without access to the internet and, therefore, a wider net search) and smartphones while Innoz initially targeted the feature phone market alone.

"People want convenience. And we are trying to solve the problem and do the information processing for them. Currently, there is no service that has the ability to answer queries in different languages. So that is again a big opportunity for us," she said.

"About 25 users have asked us more than 50 questions each in a month with the highest being about 110 queries from a single person. As many as 550-plus customers have asked more than one question," she further noted.

Although in beta stage, Buzzanytime is earning revenues through footer advertisement and has bagged two paying clients. According to Rashmi, the ROI on footer ads would be higher than other SMS mediums as the readability rate increases.

Currently an eight-member team, Buzzanytime has been selected by Bangalore-based Kyron accelerator for incubation. The company will receive $10,000 as part of the programme.

Buzzanytime is now looking to raise about $0.5-1 million in seed funding, which will be used to set up operations including technology set-up and hiring. A big chunk of the money will also go towards marketing efforts to ensure more traction and visibility.

Besides Innoz, there are some other companies operating in the same space. One of them is Text2web, which works on an automated model. Search engine giant Google also offers a mobile service called Google SMS, but it is not very focused on the mobile segment. Although Buzzanytime senses a huge opportunity in the SMS search space, the company will find it difficult to compete with the big names as they already enjoy their space in the market.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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