Lost? Just dial a friend

I am writing this article from Mysore and am pretty much lost. I don’t know the language, and since I did not bring my car here, I don’t have my GPS handy. Though my Blackberry has an inbuilt GPS, it is useless because Airtel’s GPS software does not work that well. I wanted to fire up my laptop to check the Web for directions, but the battery was nearly drained out. I wish I had a friend who I could call up and ask for directions.

And then I remembered, I do have a friend, Map My India’s new Dial 62 feature. All you have to do is dial 011-62626262 and a patient concierge at the Map My India office will help you with the directions. They will ask for landmarks in the vicinity to pinpoint your location and then send you directions via SMS. They can also email you the information you are looking for, be it something trivial like an ATM or petrol pump.

The service is still in the beta stage and shaping up. Rohan Verma of Map My India, however, commits that the full launch in about four weeks will include a 24×7 call centre and local numbers for more cities. As of now, the service is limited to between 8 am and 7 pm on all days, and with just the Delhi number.

Dial 62 also has local city information. But this service is now available only in Delhi. So the next time a friend calls you for directions, you can just ask him to Dial 62 instead of taking him on conducted tour to the restaurant he is looking for.
I wish operators tie up with the service and offer a short code that one can dial into, irrespective of the city one is in, to seek directions.

Though Dial 62 in a way is one of the first to offer you directions on the phone, and bridges the digital divide in a brilliant manner, another service worth mentioning is Routeguru. This service is also available through SMS and the Internet, though limited to Delhi as of now. The service from both companies is free. But you have to pay for the call charges in case of Dial 62 and the SMS charges in case of Routeguru.

The biggest problem on Indian roads, especially unfamiliar ones, is the frequent changes in names of roads, lack of proper signages and political parties pasting their posters on road signs. That’s why things can’t can’t get simpler than this. I know I can always roll down the window and ask, but then, I am an Indian man and it is beyond me to roll down the window and ask for anything. This is why it always helps to have a friend, just a phone call away.

The above article appeared in the Indian Express, on Sunday July 04, 2010