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June - 2008 - issue > STARTUP CITY
ZIVA-SOFTWARE
Jayakishore Bayadi
Friday, May 30, 2008
Rapidly growing, competitive, and world-class Indian mobile industry has encouraged companies to build and experiment with new products and business models. It has also provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build innovative products and fine-tune their offerings in the India before launching the products world-wide.

Ziva Software represents the new generation of such Indian product companies. It is a 3 plus year old mobile search startup which was incubated at IIM Bangalore. It has built a new approach for mobile search system which claims to provide precise and relevant answer to any question. Ziva’s goal has been to make the depth and breadth of information available on the world-wide web and within various social communities even to the SMS users.

HEADQUARTERS
Bangalore, India

PRODUCTS
Zook is a mobile search service which can be accessed by sending SMS to 5757 5665 or via mobile browsers (http://zook.in). Manas Platform is Ziva's mobile search platform and Chits Platform is Ziva's mobile advertisement platform.

PRINCIPALS
Founder and CEO – Dr. Ajay Sethi
Founding Team – Sameer Shisodia, Gowri S, Bipin Kumar

Dr. Sethi worked with Oracle for eight years (first in the U.S and later in India) before founding Ziva. While working in the U.S., Dr. Sethi was a part of the database server team. He relocated to India and started the Business Intelligence team in Nov 2000. He also headed a R&D team at Oracle. During this time Dr. Sethi foresaw an opportunity to combine Business Intelligence concepts with search techniques to offer a better search experience than the existing search methods.

CUSTOMERS:
The company, which currently employs 18 people, has customers like Infomedia-Nokia, Star TV, Hindustan Times, Just Dial, Geine Technologies, and many more.

COMPETITORS
Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft Live, and other mobile search/answering companies.

BUSINESS MODEL
Zook helps users to “complete the loop” by performing actions related to their search. Zook has bid-based system for companies so that they can get qualified leads from Zook. Zook also has mobile-specific advertising platform with special emphasis on brand ads and coupons/offers. In addition, platform sales and support activities are other channels of revenue for Ziva.

EARLY INVESTORS
The company was initially self-funded by the founding team. Ziva received a Series A funding of $1.7 million from Ojas Venture Partners in 2006.

QUEUED UP
Build the Zook brand. Launch Zook internationally

DIFFERENTIATOR
You can ask any question on Zook – including local search questions, mobile content questions, and movie/restaurant questions. In order to answer such a broad spectrum of questions, Zook crawls the web and automatically builds an index of possible answers. It also partners with content companies to make their content accessible to users. Moreover, if the answer to a user's question is not available in the index, Zook forwards the unanswered question to the Zook community. The community-assisted answering system is an open platform wherein anyone can answer open questions. Since Zook uses a combination of algorithmic and community-assisted search paradigms, Ziva believes the model can be scalable to handle millions/billions of questions.

What is different is availability of relevant information for your query. The web search systems being used by Ziva’s competitors perform page-level searches. They give related links of pages with the pertaining information but not the relevant information itself. But Ziva has developed an automated way of identifying the data to build the database of records, which helps deliver precise answers to user queries. Hence Ziva’s platform works at a deeper level. “Our competitors can’t leverage their existing platforms to offer the kind of mobile search service that we do. They have to put extra effort to build something similar,” says Dr. Sethi.

Technically, even from such an index one might get unwanted answers for a particular query. Ziva handles this issue by ‘interacting with the user’ to derive user's intent; this makes use of Semantic Web techniques to some extent. They’ve also integrated groups into the search system so that users can get feedback from and provide their opinions to other people with common interests.

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