What is the core idea behind Chorki?
Initially, our plan was very simple. We wanted to develop an e-commerce platform, which can be used to help local entrepreneurs start their business effortlessly. So we started working on that. While working on the project, we found that searching for local product is actually quite tough and we don't have a proper solution for that.
Thus we got the idea for a search engine that specialises in product searching. This is quite unique and new, even for Google and Yahoo. Bangladesh's economy s growing and there is a big opportunity for a local commercial search engine to play a very vital role here. We launched our beta version in April 2015. Now Chorki.com has four search categories: Web, Product, News and Foods. With more than 10 lakh local contents, Chorki is the biggest search engine in Bangladesh.
So is it a Bangladeshi version of Google?
I wouldn't claim that. Google has decades of experience with search engines. Chorki is only a few months old and we are working every day to make results more intelligent and relevant. Plus the core idea of Chorki is different from Google. Chorki is making local content searchable, whereas Google is the global giant in the search engine industry.
For example, Chorki currently has almost 200,000 searchable local products. More than 5,000 local websites are available on Chorki's web search. We are working to cater to the interest areas of Bangladeshis. Hence the slogan: “Search Bangladesh”. And we want it to be just that. Our whole team is working towards achieving this as soon as possible.
How did you guys come up with the name?
Well the chorki is a symbol of Bangladeshi culture. Whenever we think of any local fair or festival, a chorki is something you cannot ignore. Moreover, Chorki.com displays the universal searching sign as chorki that's spinning. As a whole Chorki reflects what we mean by “Search Bangladesh”.
All the co-founders of Chorki left a secured job to work here. How challenging was it?
Yes, it was challenging. We all had secure jobs. But our passion and dream was to make something meaningful for the Bangladeshi market. It is very important for any startup to have the right business partner. We are lucky to have that. Chorki Limited has a strong and capable investor who backed our ideas and backed our decision to quit our jobs and start this dream journey.
Working on a startup requires funds. How did you guys secure funds for your startup?
Developing a search engine is one the toughest jobs in the world in terms of technology as well as sustainability. Plus from Chorki Limited we have two other major projects: Ghoori (e-commerce platform) and Lateem (ad-engine). All these products are unique and tough to develop. So we needed proper backup in terms of business experience and funding. Hence, before starting our journey we pitched to several investors. Mind Initiative, a VC from Malaysia showed interest in our vision and product ideas. Thus we found our funding and business partner.
No we don't. Chorki is our dream and passion. So we were all completely ready to leave our corporate career to start this amazing journey. Yes, startups are tough as you need to do everything, from managing developers to office/admin work, whereas in the corporate world you have your own specific responsibilities. But in our case, we are enjoying the current situation – working to develop three awesome products and a great organisational culture. We started our journey with four people, but right now we have a team of 23 people and it is increasing every month. Interestingly, not a single person has left Chorki in its 7 month-long journey. We share a common goal and vision for the company as a team and reflect the culture of Bangladesh and her heritage. Our office is designed to encourage interactions between ChorkiBajj (that's what we are calling ourselves) and to spark conversation about work as well as play. Summing it up, we are just enjoying the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Do guys have any competitors in the market? If yes, how is your product different from them?
Chorki.com actually is the second attempt at developing a search engine. Pipilika.com, a research project from SUST, was the first search engine from Bangladesh. But that was not a commercial project. So in a sense Chorki.com is the first commercial search engine from Bangladesh. We are actually quite different from them. Firstly, we believe Chorki.com has the cleanest and easiest-to-access UI compared to any search engine in the world. Secondly, our algorithm and searching technology is also unique. We are using our own developed ranking system and AI to give more relevant local search results. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we are sure we are on the right path. We are currently working on introducing more categories like: Jobs, Cricket, Image and Video.
Chorki's beta site has been out for a while now. How good has the response been so far?
We are overwhelmed with the response. We're getting 3,000 unique searches every day. As a number, it is very low, but as a start this is amazing. We got great traction from users as well as media. People are excited and they are helping us by submitting thousands of web links (https://chorki.com/submit-links). We have had steady growth so far. This gives us the foundation to launch big communications campaigns soon. As a whole, we got the start and now it is our duty to give excellent search results so that more and more people come to Chorki and start searching.\
Engineer-turned-writer, Shahriar Rahman is Sub-Editor of the tech publication of The Daily Star. He is also Head of Operations at HiFi Public