Filipino startup aims to beat Google in local search
Google is the 2nd biggest tech company in the world but there’s arguably one friction point that holds back Filipinos from habitually using its search engine, the availability of cheap and reliable Internet. By the numbers, Filipinos see more value in using their prepaid data minutes to chat on social media, watch videos or play games.
Started in March this year, a Manila based startup aims to get Filipinos in the habit of conducting searches for local businesses using its new app, Booky, by betting on one key advantage, it doesn’t require an Internet connection. Right now, Booky lets users search for restaurants in Metro Manila but soon it will expand into other business categories like health, beauty, hotels and banks. The app is free to download and of course won’t eat up prepaid load as it works offline.
Searching for information like a restaurant’s phone number or finding a bank’s branch address is globally one of Google’s biggest traffic generators, however in the PHL this has proved different story. Last week, Google in partnership with local celebrities like singer Yael Yuzon, chef Erwan Heusaff and comedian Bogart the Explorer rolled out a digital campaign, ‘#googlemolang’ to encourage Filipinos to use the search engine more. They created an online interactive story with various endings that requires the use of Google search to unlock the next stage. A very engaging campaign that also underlines two things: the Philippines is an important emerging market to Google and Google is unsatisfied with the current volume of local search queries.
In the Philippines, 95% of people do not have a data plan. In addition, internet speeds are amongst the slowest in SEA, as publicized in a report by ASEAN Briefing earlier this year. It’s not certain this is the biggest reason why Filipinos are not crazy Googlers, perhaps Filipinos require education on what information can be found on Google or perhaps there’s just little underlying motivation to search for something. Founder of Booky, Ben Wintle is betting that easy access to local information like a restaurant’s phone number universally improves peoples lives, whether or not they already know it. Ben believes that providing fast and free access to this information will be the difference that gets Filipinos searching. He also believes that catering to Filipinos love for eating is their starting point for this challenge.
Booky has over 11,000 restaurants in Metro Manila. It will expand to Tagaytay, Baguio and Cebu very soon. Download Booky for free on iOS or Android. http://phonebooky.com