Mumbai start-up Wonobo takes on Google, on the street!

Last Updated: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 20:27

Mumbai: In its two-year journey since ideation, a dozen data-collecting vehicles of Wonobo.Com have traversed as much as 150,000 km scanning the major cities in the country to launch an indigenous `street view` service on the lines of Google`s offering.

Wonobo.Com, owned by little-known Genesys International, has captured a 360-degree view of the city roads, including the narrowest bylanes, amid a plethora of regulations and rising concerns over privacy.

"The defence ministry is the nodal agency that clears the imagery. Due to the obvious concerns, there are some no-go areas but others they are fine with this," says Sajid Malik, head and founder of the city-based Genesys International.

Malik, who has been in the mapping industry for over two decades, feels that there is a market for offering a 360- degree street views, which is created by sewing up multiple images taken by cameras fitted on vehicles.

He roped in Zaki Ansari, whose resume includes being part of the launch team of Rediff.Com from a small south Mumbai apartment when the Internet was in its infancy, to spin a easy-to-use and consumer-friendly product.

After putting in about USD 35 million, long trips, mixed experiences and tens of zillion bytes of data, the duo launched Wonobo.Com a fortnight back.

It can be noted that search engine giant Google is yet to launch its street view application in the country and is reportedly yet to get all the regulatory go-aheads.

Google Street View was launched in May 2007, in several cities in the US, and has since then expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide.

Ansari, however, dismissed the comparisons with Google.

Wonobo possesses a host of features that makes it useful from a city chronicling and also civic administration perspective, apart from empowering a person to indulge in a virtual tour of a place sitting anywhere in the world, he said.

"Suppose there is a pothole on the road. You can click a picture of it and pin it on the actual location on the website. A civic official sitting anywhere can access the same imagery and take action," he explained.

Besides, the website has already tied up with commercial establishments to attract prospective travellers or customers.

For example, it offers inside views of places like hotels, thereby offering potential customers with more information before they can make a choice.

Wonobo, Malik`s biggest gamble yet, has already received appreciation for its myriad applications.

Genesys, the biggest shareholder in Wonobo clocked revenue of Rs 120 crore in FY`13 and has invested upwards of Rs 200 crore on the project.

"I expect the product to break even in 18 months," says Malik.

Since October 15 -- when Wonobo was launched -- Genesys` shares have soared from Rs 94 levels to Rs 110 at present.

The product will initially cover a few select metros and the team plans to scale up till 54 cities. It has now been launched as a website and a mobile-based application is already in the works.

"Gradually, we will have a lot of interactivity on the website. There will be discussions and recommendations," Ansari says, pointing towards the themed `walks`, which has been endorsed by the Union tourism ministry, where someone one can take a virtual tour of a specified area.

However, company officials said though the launch was in association with the tourism ministry, they did not get any monetary support from the government.

There are many applications in the works, Ansari says, saying user adoption is the first priority for the company right now.

First Published: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 20:27
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