Recently, Google launched landmark-intelligent driving directions for Indian subcontinent and evangelized it globally via four blog posts (1 | 2 | 3 | 4) as an innovative approach to make driving directions better and more meaningful.
When I read the news, I had mixed feelings. On one hand it gives me pleasure that our innovation “landmark-intelligent driving directions” is recognized globally, while on the other hand it’s a big disappointment about how Google has articulated the whole story (refer below)
“ … During a trip to the Google engineering office in Bangalore, our driving directions engineers got a chance to learn firsthand how drivers navigate in India. We discovered that street signs or names tend to be less important than landmarks … … In India, we have a lot of great landmark data available through user-entered “Points of Interest” in Google Map Maker …”
I feel sad for our young and small team, who pioneered the whole concept, put everything in our lives at stake to chase a dream of “changing the way directions are consumed in India and globally” and actively evangelized the idea since 2007 at multiple platforms (Proto, Barcamps, MoMo Delhi/Bangalore, NASSCOM), covered highly by various media groups (like CIOL, ET, CNBC, NDTV, i.t. Magz, Pluggd.in, WebYantra, Sahara Samay and plenty of reputed bloggers) including spending time in educating the Google India team about the suitability of landmark-intelligence based directions to Indian conditions.
Today I understand what my history teacher used to say – “History is always written by the winner of the war”. Seems Google is so keen to take credit for this innovation that they did not even care to mention our brief interaction and their own acknowledgement that this was truly innovative. For a company with the corporate motto – “Don’t be Evil” this shocks violently. It would have been really nice to see such a respected company patronizing a young and creative team rather than stealing credit in this manner.
I don’t say that Google can’t come up with the similar idea but the fact that it has already been validated and tested over the years can’t be ignored and whole world can’t be duped with the charming story that Google formulates about how their Bangalore engineers observed the problem to eventually bring this innovation to ground.
But one thing I have learnt in my entrepreneurial journey is to pick myself up when I am down, brush off the dirt and get going again and think of what newer opportunities such incidents bring along.
How Google’s launch can be good for RouteGuru?
1. It is certainly motivating as the Google’s launch is a big validation for the fact that landmark-based driving directions are the way to go in countries like India. Google’s buzz brings a lot of credibility to our vision. In fact, we’re already seeing new interest in our technology and business.
2. Learning that the leading independent analysts have pointed out that Google has implemented the concept already established by RouteGuru is very motivating. For us it’s a moment of pride that we could foresee, envision and implement a concept that Google ended up implementing almost 3 years later. Please refer to the links below:
3. A few appreciations and partnership interests have come our way from various parts of the world e.g. North Africa, UK etc. acknowledging our vision, strengths and the splendid work done, soon after this news went public. We’re very happy to see recognition by those who may not have known us otherwise at all. I wish I could let the whole world know about it.
4. Google is struggling to build leadership position in China, Japan and Korean markets for search. Perhaps we can partner with the local search leaders and offer them competing solutions to better Google’s offering.
This comes as no surprise as it was only a matter of time before one of the Internet giants realized the strategic importance of “landmark intelligence within driving directions”. Many of our admirers, friends, regular users, bloggers and journalists are contacting us to learn, “What now?”, “What it really means for RouteGuru?”, “Is it really the end of story?”
I candidly want to communicate that it’s a good lesson for us about what can it really mean when big companies talk to you and how we end up communicating many things unknowingly. It’s an emotional hurt to see someone else reaping the benefit of an innovation pioneered by us and for the small entity that we are, we can only feel helpless.
However, this certainly is not the end of story. On the contrary, it opens up newer opportunities with the global markets waking up to the concept and we hope to build alliances to fight with anyone in our expertise area (I’ll soon write in detail about why I feel the Google’s story looks fluffy and why RouteGuru still has a better solution than Google).
After a period of lull, I feel energetic again and confident that we will come back much more strongly soon. Stay tuned for more.