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The 'Google Maps’ of India

Lost? Find directions online on: www.mapmyindia.com]

On my first day into London, the one thing I noticed was properly ordered and numbered roads, streets, and houses - something found only in PSU townships in India. The observation was highlighted during my recent weekend drive to Wales. The highways were numbered in precision down to the smallest exit. Navigation was so simple, completely eliminating the need for any landmarks - just know the numbers.

With this infrastructure, it’s quite natural for navigation maps service to get introduced. While navigation maps have been around for quite a while now, Google Maps represents astounding blend of art and technology, so much so that it has heralded changes in the life style. Using the latest Ajax technology with a mix of navigational data and satellite imagery, this tool has transformed the way people travel here.

Checking the location of your destination on Google Maps is the first thing that one usually does nowadays before embarking on a weekend trip or even going to the pub next door! When I need to visit a new client, I usually figure out the walk-trail to his office from the nearest train station on Google Maps.

Google is whacky company and believes in 'spreading the bug' philosophy. So it has released the Google Maps API (a kind of programming library), for geeks to build upon the basic offering. And techies have come up with weird uses of Google Maps.

These guys have combined GMaps and Wiki information to create a time-zone map. This dude shows us how to use Google Maps API to Find Movies that were filmed in your city, and Wayfaring.com has come up with personalized Google maps so that you can create bookmarks on the map to say guide your friends to restaurants you'd like them to try. These zombies have even come up with Games using GMaps API. And this dude even used Google Maps to get out of a traffic ticket.

Google itself has the weirdest nerds working for it, and so the weirdest use of Google maps is listed in its own sign up agreementThere are some uses of the API that we just don't want to see. For instance, we do not want to see maps that identify the places to buy illegal drugs in a city, or any similar illegal activity.

But till recently all this excitement was merely for the west - Google Maps doesn't have detailed maps for India yet. But Indians need wait no more for Google Maps to travel to India - CE Info-system’s http://www.mapmyindia.com/ is a navigational maps service for India. As AlooTechie puts it - the service has brought 50,000 villages of India online.

Launched way back in 2004, MapMyIndia has recently launched its latest avatar “Beta v-2007”. The service ‘maps’ all major towns and roads of India and can provide quite detailed roadmaps for most major cities in India. One can use it for most navigational purposes just like people use Google Maps. And like Google Maps, MapMyIndia is available to be used on mobile phones.

However, there are many ‘add-on’ services which Google Maps offers, which at least as of now MapMyIndia is not offering. For example, Businesses can list themselves by location on Google Maps; they can also opt in for being advertised on Google Maps – something MapMyIndia is far from offering.

Some other useful additions to MapMyIndia could be a possible tie ups with websites like http://www.irctc.co.in/ (which provides online Raiway Ticket bookings) and http://www.makemytrip.com/ (which is an airline travel planner), to provide route information along with the travel info. Lots of adventure tourism companies too could be potential partners for it. The possibilities are immense - a small beginning has already been made by tying up with MagicBricks - a property search portal.

Notwithstanding the limitations, the service is a good start. Now at least, small businesses can locate their offices online and use the “link to this map” feature to bookmark that location. This bookmark can serve as a ‘personalized’ pointer to be published on say one’s website or homepage to provide driving directions to new visitors. Bikers and Motorists could locate small towns on the way to their destination and thus plan their route, detours and break-points.

But mapping a massive country like India is not as simple. The major challenge, lies with the government - online portals can transform and automate identification of roads and streets - but for these tools to be effective to the greatest extent, routes need to be organized, numbered, ordered and most importantly maintained. While I offer congrats to MapMyIndia Team, I must also wish a Best of Luck to the Indian governments :-).


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