Author: Mark Bergen
Usually, one of the surest bets for a technology innovator here is to handpick a winner in the U.S., then just bring it over. When Rahul RS and his partners left Infosys, one of the nation’s largest IT companies, to start their own venture, location-based services were becoming all the rage stateside. A flurry of GPS-enabled apps sprung up allowing users to pinpoint themselves and others. They ranged from the leisurely social networkers (i.e. Foursquare) to the serious security services, now bound for profitable IPOs.
“We were trying to adapt something that worked in the West to India,” Rahul says, describing his efforts with Onze Technologies. But transplanting mapping software to Indian cities is not a simple feat. “It doesn’t quite work out,” he says.
For one, the landscape is entirely different. Very few urban pockets are laid out in a grid. They’re filled with winding, narrow roads prone to sudden turns and stops. Addresses are often out of order or sight. Streets pop up, change names and add new commercial inhabitants all the time.
Another obstacle is cultural. “People are not used to maps,” Rahul explains. Giving directions in India is an idiomatic art, well-rehearsed and rarely done following formal strictures. He goes on: “I can guarantee you nobody will say, ‘head south.’” Rather than cardinal directions, people will navigate the lost using a series of routes and familiar landmarks.
Read the full article at http://www.theatlanticcities.com/technology/2013/03/why-its-nearly-impossible-make-gps-work-india/4934/.