I had moved from NYC to Chennai with my wife and 6m infant. Chennai was the place I had spent 22 years. My mom/dad and few friends were there. Thought the move would be easy with friends and Parents around. Unfortunately my friends were busy and had spread across different parts of the world/country over time. My mom/dad and relatives totally had different preferences. They were more cost conscious while I was more quality conscious. I would any day trade-off price over peace-of-mind and dependability.
Thus, for me logistics of moving translated into few of the below incidents: (just quoting a few)
1. Finding a good rental home, close to my parent’s place. Which inturn meant, reaching to Sulekha.com or finding trusted-Rental Brokers. I ended up just asking the road-side-shop-owners who doubled as brokers and just had to trust them with no option. Atleast having Sulekha-ads was a definite savior.
2. Finding an Invertor and Water-Purifier Company as electricity-shortage and water-problems were acute in chennai. This inturn meant asking around and looking at THE HINDU classifieds and JUST-DIAL. Both gave a list of providers, whom i could hardly trust. I ended up just randomly going with one vendor and till this day regret for having done business with him. The product was of bad quality and the problem aggravated due to false-promises and bad customer-support. The vendor would hardly care to respond or rectify the issue as all he cared was to sell it and forget the customer.
3. Finding a good BabySitter or Maid and Cook, Finding a car-driver — No online option existed that I could trust. This time, I did not want to play with the plain Justdial approach; I ended up finding someone just by asking friends and co-workers but with a month of asking around.
4. Finding a trustable-knowledged Paediatrician and Gynaecologist — Asking around friends, co-workers, and family over many days and narrowing down to 1 or 2 did the trick. But still wished I had more time to ask around more co-workers and my contacts, those with similar profile and preferences. I knew there would be someone who would know and who would be in a similar boat to help me… Unfortunately I had only limited time and went with half-researched-solution.
And the list of such incidents is long! All this made the relocation tremendously painful. I wish there was a magic wand, which had said, X and Y are the trusted Service Provider/Business for the needs i have, among my circle of Friends/Co-Workers/Family/Neighbors who share similar preferences as mine.
An eye-opener on this problem is that, I was not ALONE! And it was definitely not limited to RELOCATION.
Every week, i get atleast 1 request from a co-worker or a friend or a neighbor asking me to REFER him/her to a business i trusted . Because life throws at us so many newer situations and problems for which we seek a SERVICE PROVIDER or a BUSINESS to help us and we are set on a path of researching and finding them.
Some recent referral requests from my friend/co-workers:
- A Dentist for my colleague’s brother
- A Dance class Tutor for one of my friend’s 4 year old girl
- A Personal trainer for a colleaue,
- A Business-Card printing vendor, an office-rental-space-broker, a corporate-lawyer and a tax-planner for a friend who was starting-up,
- An Event-Planner/Magician and a Party Hall for my colleague’s kid’s first Birthday party.
In all these cases, they reached me not because they could not find someone online. They did have a long list of businesses/service-providers from the local-search-websites, but it was the question of TRUST, PEACE-OF-MIND and quick DECISION MAKING. More importantly it was also about the question of SUITABILITY and PREFERENCES match.
There is no doubt that the problem of discovering and deciding on right local-business or service is severe pain; more severe in Indian ecosystem with unorganized service sector, no customer-accountability-system and little to no trustable online presence.
Good thing is that the local-search-solutions like Justdial, Google-places, Asklaila, Getit, Sulekha and others have at least made a start:
- Have provided online presence for these local-businesses
- Have made them searchable(over phone, web) &
- Have crowd-sourced reviews/ratings around them
I feel the true break-through and pain-killer for this Problem will only happen when local search engines make it possible to not only search and list but help users discover and decide on the right business instantly. In my view such a solution has to revolve around a Social Angieslist - A PERSONALIZED CURATION of the ServiceProvider/Business list from these listing sites combined with the natural phenomenon of how we go about self-curating the information from friends and colleagues to add the trust layer.
Simply put: From the list that Just-Dial and Google-Places generates, effortlessly narrow down to those whom I can trust and those who are suited to my preferences’.
This is the exact premise, with which we at TURING Research are trying to build FRILP – Friends Help!
After all, there are much better things to do in life than worry about and working with painful service-providers/businesses. After all we dont need 100 choices and 50 reviews, we simply need that 1 or 2 names who made our friends/co-workers happy which kind of guarantees the TRUST and SUITABILITY elements and gives us much better level of confidence to make that quick decision. Will FRILP be able to help users discover & decide on that 1 or 2 Providers/Businesses with minimal effort is something to wait-n-watch.
Other interesting read on this:
1. Another person who faced similar issues when moving from Boston to Bangalore [ Link ]
2. Comprehensive view of TRUSTED SOCIAL Recommendations Space [Link]
3. Social Reviews and Ratings [Link]
4. Why current ratings and reviews Suck and How to Save Them [Link]
5. How Big is this problem – 150 lakh Searches per month measured using JustDial 2011 Numbers [Link]
About Shyam Anandaraman
Shyam is the Co-Founder of Frilp and currently takes care of product design and other open challenges at frilp.