Toost wants to replace the Yellow Pages with social, localised searches

Toost wants to replace the Yellow Pages with social, localised searches

By SANSHEY BISWAS | | 11 July, 2015
A promotional advertisment by Toost.
It's well established now that a Google search is the easiest way to find something, anything. It could be a person, a place, a location, the answer to life, the universe and well, everything. But when it comes to localised searches, specific to the extent of a colony in small city, Google doesn't always get it right. Toost, an app developed in India and available worldwide, wants to be that local search engine you need, with features like reviews and activity feeds (a live feed of reviews put up by people based on your recent searches and phone contacts). Google, thanks to its broad scope, always has to strike a balance between global and local searches. That might work out fine in metros but, when it comes to tier II and III cities, the results can often seem unsatisfactory, depending on the query. Finding a carpenter in New Delhi on Google, for instance, is an easy enough task, but look for one in Barmer and the story becomes quite different. The list of results could range from OLX and Quikr to... Viswabrahminmatrimony.
 
The other player in this segment used to be JustDial, which became popular because of its yellow pages-like digital directory that anyone could access over a phone call. But they aren't controlling this space anymore. Their listing services still have a grip on the market, but that grip seems to be loosening by the day, especially since listings for dining and food deliveries is a separate parallel now, dominated by Zomato. For everything else, there's Google. Google also tracks your location to ensure that the results shown are relevant. But ultimately, keywords remain sacred to search engines, so a search for a flower store in New Delhi could just as easily yield a listing of a diner in Eastern Europe.
 
Toost deals with this problem by locking you down to a location. If you shuttle between cities, keeping them tagged lets you switch between the search result parameters. The app derives further accuracy and social interaction by treating your phonebook as a friends' list. You can divide the phonebook into your list of friends, and a list of contacts that you use for acquiring products or services. If your friends are also on Toost, the app will show you their activity on it, while the business contacts you have on your phone will get entered into the app's directory as services available to users.
 
The localised nature of the app means that its scope is restricted at the moment. Currently it may not always provide you with the absolute best options since it's still in its early days, but once people start using Toost to log feedback and register newfound handymen or services, the database will only grow and be able to reach full potential. However, with over a million installs already, Toost has made a promising start, building slowly towards an ideal level of engagement.
 
Toost, an app developed in India and available worldwide, wants to be that local search engine you need, with features like reviews and activity feeds (a live feed of reviews put up by people based on your recent searches and phone contacts). Google, thanks to its broad scope, always has to strike a balance between global and local searches. That might work out fine in metros but, when it comes to tier II and III cities, the results can often seem unsatisfactory, depending on the query.
 
The nature of user-generated reviews is such that a user is more likely to rate and comment on a service when it's unsatisfactory. This means that the only way to choose between two providers is finding out who's received the least hate in reviews. That's why they've added an end-call floating notification that lets your rate the service used after ending the call. A simple swipe on the satisfaction metre is enough to rate the service you've availed. To write a review, access the Toost directory and look up the business.
 
The app follows an agile methodology; it's refreshed every few weeks by the developers, who make regular tweaks to the interface as well. All this seems to be in sync with the larger goal they've devise: To make local searches easier and more social. Much like restaurants with Zomato, pretty soon you might have plumbers, electricians and grocery stores asking you to rate and review them on Toost. But that's all in the future. As of now, it becomes essential for users to get their friends and acquaintances on to the platform, so that in time, the Toost database expands and it becomes the primary source of local listings for its users, which is the only way the app can sustain itself.

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