Who needs Google Street View! Even as the global search major struggles with Indian authorities to get permissions to take images of Indian city streets, a small Mumbai-based mapping company has done all that Google had planned, and perhaps more, for the top 54 Indian cities.
Genesys International, founded in 1995 by brothers Sohel and Sajid Malik, have captured numerous images of almost every street in these cities, and stitched the images together to create 360-degree panoramic views of the streets, almost exactly the way Google has done in many other parts of the world.
On Tuesday, the company launched the service under the brand Wonobo(wonobo.com). The site suffered from latency on Tuesday, and there were many complaints online about the slow download speed. But the company said the speed will improve in a day or so as they get everything in place.
So how come they were able to do something that Google has not been able to yet in India? Sajid Malik says that one advantage Genesys had was in having worked with the government for many years for their mapping services. “For street view, the government, including the defence ministry and the Survey of India, threw a lot of regulations at us. We painstakingly fulfilled their requirements , including not taking pictures in sensitive areas,” he said. The company has so far been in the services business, creating map content for others such as Navteq (provider of electronic navigable maps), Nokia and Bing, and was involved recently in creating digital maps of Dubai, Mecca and Medina.
Wonobo street view is being launched initially for 12 cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore , Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Jaipur, Costal Goa, Kolkata, Agra and Pune. The remaining will be launched over the following weeks.
Wonobo’s main street view service provides a satellite map and the street view on your screen. You can click on any part of the map and get the corresponding street view You can look all around a point on a street. You can click or drag on the street view to go down a street.
There’s a search box to find locations. With the help of field staff, Wonobo has tagged some 10 million points of interest, that includes 4 million business locations. You can walk into some of these locations — like Novotel hotel in Mumbai — and look all around. Though the company is not charging Novotel now, these are potential revenue sources. For many of the small businesses tagged, it’s their first web presence. “Any merchant can mention his suite of services, show real-time prices or available inventory, and showcase interiors. One of our revenue sources will be based on such hyper-local engagement ,” Sajid said. Random checks done on Wonobo showed that some of the images are a little dated, some important roads have not been covered yet, some of the tagging could have been better done. The company said their effort is to ensure that images are no more than six months old.
[Editor’s Note: This article originally featured on the Economic Times]