As MapmyIndia enters Google territory, can it beat the Goliath of internet?
It was a late January morning. Bitter winter had just taken leave of Delhi. Rakesh Verma, founder and CEO of MapmyIndia, settled down in his Jaguar, tapped on the built-in navigator and entered the destination: Kailash Colony Metro Station, barely four kilometres from his home in Block S, Greater Kailash II. Rashmi Verma, his wife and cofounder of MapmyIndia, took her seat and launched the MapmyIndia app on her iPhone. She entered the same destination. As the car moved, they compared notes on thaythey compared notes on the two versions of the mapping and navigation software.
That day, the Vermas were racing against time. They were about to launch the new MapmyIndia app at the AutoExpo 2018 and their challenge was to put together the best of both apps — the one installed in the car, which has the entire map of India downloaded on it and works without internet connectivity, and the app that works on a connected device and gives real-time traffic updates. MapmyIndia, promoted by the Vermas, has around `200 crore in revenues, remains profitable and dominates the map space in automobiles in India, including Jaguars. However, there are new challenges. Offline maps, though always working, cannot estimate the time to reach the destination and the best route.
The Vermas launched their revamped consumer mobile app, with all the bells and whistles of an always-on product, on February 5 and showcased it at the Auto Expo. They are re-entering a space they had vacated five years back. Although a free version of the MapmyIndia app was available on different platforms, it never had the full features. Google Maps had a free run while MapmyIndia was focused only on businessto-business application
IT and digital sector analyst Sanchit Vir Gogia of Greyhound Research says MapmyIndia’s new app is already “too late” and should have come into play a few years ago.
What has forced the Vermas to look at an alternative strategy now is the way data consumption has changed in India. Data has got faster, and cheaper. Having the entire map installed on a device has ceased to be an advantage. Meanwhile, Google Maps has pressed down the accelerator.
Around the time the 60-something Vermas were taking a little ride in their Jaguar, Google Maps’ young program manager, Anal Ghosh, 33, was in Gurgaon, busy hatching new ways to make it more popular. Ghosh, based in Hyderabad, was visiting the Google offices at Unitech Signature Towers for the week. He is clearly the man setting the pace in consumer navigation in India.
Google Maps has a long relationship with India, and crucial developments started out of India a decade ago under a different leader, the then Google India CEO Lalitesh Katragadda, and Ghosh is keen Google Maps continues to learn from the country.
For instance, in India, Google Maps focuses on landmark-based navigation, using Metro p
For two years now, Google Maps have focused on the Indian market and are testing new developments. Last December, it started to promote its traffic navigation applications with a major outdoor campaign. For Indians using smartphones with less than 1GB RAM, it has also launched a lighter version of the app called Google Maps Go.
Ghosh told ET Magazine that the company is trying to make Google Maps more current. He cites the example of how during city marathons, Google Maps traces the routes when the race is on. Or, how Google Maps worked with Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi during his Bharat Yatra to protest child abuse and exploitation last year. His route was mapped and anyone wanting to join the yatra could find out Satyarthi’s exact location and route.
In Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata, information given by the police are constantly used for updating traffic navigation. It is also possible to book an Ola or Uber from the Google Maps app. Soon it will be possible to