LatLong by Onze trying decode the maps for us
As promised I am starting the outfoscions series with Onze Technologies. With their first and primary product Latlong.in they are trying to decode the maps for the rest of us. Latlong tries to give you the information on the go, hence the best way is to deliver by SMS. But the biggest problem for delivering the route on the SMS is 160 character limit. Guys at Latlong came up with a plan of decoding the last ~5km route to destination. This is a brilliant idea considering most of the time users struggle in last five kilometers. Any detailed information from a known landmark in last five kilometers is the way we generally give directions to our friend. LatLong tries to do the same on sms.
You can start using by sending "help" to 90088 90088.
This Sunday I met them at their office. In fact I used their own service to reach their office. It was great fun talking to all the four (Sud, Rahul, Sairam and Pavaman) founders.
Here is an interview I did with them. I am not an interviewer as such. But I have tried to ask questions, which probably will help you know more about LatLong.in. Thank you Sud for taking time out.
[thej] How and when did you think about starting up?
[sud] I had tried running a part-time business along with friends during my student life. I joined Infosys right after my college. During Infosys, I have been thinking of starting on my own all along, but the learning experience at Infosys was so good that I kept putting off getting out. I changed my job profile at Infosys every about 18 months and it was fun as well. Then I found that Rahul too was contemplating starting on his own. I did not want to miss the opportunity. This was in late 2006.
[thej]Why mapping or location?
[sud] The 4 of us co-founders used to live abroad (US, Japan, Canada, etc.) when we went onsite from Infosys. All of us used location technologies to help us get around (online maps, GPS navigation devices... ). I used to proudly tell my US friends that we dont need such things back in India. But when I returned to India and lately, I noticed that this was not the Bangalore I was familiar with. Let alone figuring out how to go to this new place called Banasvadi, I did not even know what are the good book shops near my home. Asking a neighbour or a passerby was not as effective as it was when I was a kid. That was when we realized that "India is changing" with so much growth and change and, "Indians are changing" as we want conveniences in life.
[thej]As of today there are quite a few players in this field from Google to mapmyindia. How do you place yourself?
[sud] Yes we looked at those players before we started. We felt it is possible to build a good user base nevertheless.
[thej]Why SMS? Do you think sms will still be big as data is becoming cheap?
[sud] Oh we just chose SMS as our first offering. User uptake proved it was a good choice. Other channels are in the lab now.
[sud] Help people on the move better and better. Expand to other cities.
[thej]I know you use AWS, what other technologies you use?
[sud] We initially thought we will reuse existing content, technologies and frameworks. But in the end we figured we had to create most ourselves. Majority of the systems are custom software using c++ on linux. There is also Java, perl, etc.
[thej]What blog and books do you suggest for others?
[sud]Others, who? Other startups? Then www.paulgraham.com anyday :-)
Maps, location and optimize routes are still unsolved puzzle in India. With more than 300m mobile connections, I am sure sms is a great channel. But thats not enough. I am happy that they are working on other channels. I am happy to use their sms channel (specially because it's not a premium number). I really love their new feature of adding home or business onto their service, expect lo more cool features in future.
Note 1: BTW they have pretty decent size of 15 now are looking for great web developers. Dont forget to send your resume.
Note 2: OnZe expands to One and Zero. This is the name they came up with when they were trying to find a neutral tech name.
Note 3: As of now LatLong works in Bangalore and Chennai. They are working to add more cities.