Ilaaka(pronounced e+laa+ca) is a rapidly growing destination that went from 120 users in September of last year to around 14000 users as of this writing. It provides local maps, local search, coffee clubs through which you can hook up with people at local coffee shops, online forums, listings of local events, social networking, information on discounts at local stores, blogs and few more features.
Lately we've been seeing more and more startups focusing on a niche segment and haven't seen any aiming to be portals. But Ilaaka seems to be heading that direction. So, is Ilaaka going to be like Yahoo which is one of the earliest web portals? Where exactly are they heading and what's on the mind of its founder?
Startups.InsiderPreshitdid an excellent job trying to find the answers for some of these questions. Keep reading to learn more.
1. What exactly is ilaaka.com. Could you explain it for our readers?
ilaaka.com helps you be better connected to the locality around you.
We all have various needs in our city life: Right from finding a good garage nearby, being updated on a discount sale at your favorite apparel store, checking out a good play to watch on Saturday night, finding driving directions to a friend's house, and making new friends in the neighborhood: the list of day to day communication need is huge.
ilaaka.com aims to help Indians by providing a platform for city dwellers to come together, communicate and share such day-to-day information, thereby enriching their city community tremendously.
2. When and how did you come up with the idea of ilaaka? Who came up with the name?
We decided to come up with the concept of ilaaka.com in July 2006. Our team began to realize that we were getting more & more dependent on "friends" and "contacts" for basic trivial day-to-day city information, which was self-defeating.
We realized that creating an open equal-opportunity repository for such information would have huge potential.
Regarding the name, we considered various options signifying Indian city life before zeroing in on "ilaaka.com". The name is easy to remember, sounds catchy and reminds users that our site is "their ilaaka (their place)". :)
3. ilaaka has a lot of modules to offer to the members, ranging from coffee clubs, events, blogs, to jobs and phone directories. Could you please comment on those and what according to you is "THE" main feature of ilaaka?
ilaaka.com has the following features:
i. Maps - Check out any part of your city from a bird's eye view. Zoom in, find directions.
ii. Local - Search for services in your city or directly in your pincode(zipcode) (ex: you can find a range of stuff right from a nearby pizza shop's phone number, a good book shop, to TV dealers etc.)
iii. Events - Find and tell others what's going on in your city. Here, users inform each other about exhibitions, seminars, food festivals, plays going on in their city
iv. Sales - Similar to events. Only, the sharing revolves around good bargains going on in the city.
v. Coffee Clubs - Coffee clubs is like a Yahoo Group which meets at your local coffee shop!
With coffee clubs, not only do you get all standard group features available on most sites (like forums, blogs, photo sharing, polls, etc.) but you also get to organize your next actual meeting and document for others what happened at your last meeting.
vi. Forums - The city forums allow users to ask local queries, and get users to respond to them.
vii. Classifieds - Browse and post free classifieds. It allows you to do things like sell off that used mobile phone quickly without any charge.
viii. Blogs - Encourages users to share their personal opinions, thoughts & diary in general with other users.
ix. News - Find the latest city news by googling all online news sites covering your city news, at one go.
x. Phone Directory - Allowing you to quickly find phone numbers by connecting you with your local online telephone exchange directory.
We feel Coffee Clubs is THE feature of our site. It is a revolutionary way to meet new like-minded people in a safe environment and open new vistas for following your interests.
4. What's on your immediate roadmap?
Reviews - A quick and easy way to search and add reviews for all city-related services.
5. Funding. Something most startups need. Could you tell us something about ilaaka's funding and how it's being run?
ilaaka is currently self funded. We will probably look out for external funding after we cross 500,000 users.
6. What, according to you, sets ilaaka different from other similar sites?
ilaaka is a means to help you in your everyday offline city life. i.e. it is a means, not an end. Unlike other sites, your use of ilaaka does not end when you close your browser window, rather it starts there.
We feel this focus on helping you in your offline life is our USP.
7. How has the visitor response to ilaaka been so far?
ilaaka.com was launched in August '06. With just 120 users in September '06, we now have 14000 users in March '07.
8. Switching gears, please tell us something about yourself.
I worked with Cybage Software as Project Architect before starting my own venture, Propel Software last year. At Cybage, I handled projects for clients in varied domains ranging from internet advertising for Doubleclick, information systems management for Altiris, order fulfillment systems for the new Electronic Arts gaming centers, and the MSDN shipping index rewrite for Microsoft.
I was with Cybage for over 8 years, and got a chance to participate in all aspects of the software business: right from coding and design, to building services and products from scratch, to marketing.
I graduated from Pune Institute of Computer Technology (PICT) in Computer Engineering, in 1996.
9. Where do you see ilaaka 5 years from now. Any big plans coming up?
Regarding the internet, within 5 years, expect to see some revolutionary disruptive new ways of information communication. Be it on PC or mobile or by mediums such as text or video, information will get more and more organized and generated by users.
In the scope of the average Indian city dwellers' life, we hope ilaaka catalyzes this disruptive medium, thereby helping the average Indian tremendously to get easy access to reliable day-today city information, and propelling the growth of the Indian community as a whole.
10. Any message or advice for the new startups?
i. Make sure your service is really unique, and not just a clone of an existing idea. Your own original ideas are eventually your biggest motivation.
ii. Nothing is more important than knowing your customer. Talk to potentially expert users of your product and even the laymen users personally. You'll be surprised as to how many different streams of thought you can get after speaking with them.