HT Image
HT Image

Net gears for facial search

An Indian American entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley is championing a new trend in search and shopping, facial recognition. Priya Ganapati finds out more.
By Priya Ganapati | None
UPDATED ON FEB 13, 2008 01:10 AM IST

In the Silicon Valley’s Web 2.0 boom, few entrepreneurs have managed to build the kind of buzz that Munjal Shah, CEO and founder of visual search engines Riya and Like.com, has for his fledgling startup.

Silicon Valley chatter has it that, two years ago, search giant Google was interested in acquiring Riya, a search engine specializing in facial recognition, even before the start-up was launched.

The deal fell through but Shah wasn’t discouraged. As questions about the company’s business model, or the lack of it, swirled, he took a dramatic step. He reinvented Riya as Like.com, a search engine targeted at shoppers. Shoppers can use Like.com to search for items based on color, shape and patterns.

Early last year, Shah made another tough decision. He shut his Bangalore office because he deemed outsourcing work to India was getting too expensive. Clearly, he isn’t afraid to go against conventional wisdom.
However, with Like.com, he may have placed his biggest bet yet.

Like.com focuses on jewellery, handbags and clothing, estimated to be a $15-billion business online. The site is part of a new generation of shopping engines that are giving established players such as Google a run for its money. Coupled with the high valuations that shopping comparison engines have bagged in the last few years, it may be a smart move into a lucrative segment.

Comparison engines have been the rage for a few years. Much before the dot-com bust that happened around 2000, Amazon.com acquired classification technology firm Junglee, a site that helped Internet users choose from different products online.
In 2005, the second generation of shopping comparison engines saw big buyouts. Online auctioneer firm eBay bought Shopping.com for $620 million, while media giant E.W. Scripps bought Shopzilla for $525 million the same year. Another site, PriceGrabber ,was acquired by Experian for $485 million.

“There’s a lot of money in this and entrepreneurs want a piece,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst with Forrester Research. “It’s also the reason investors find the business so lucrative.” Like.com has raised $19.5 million in funding from firms including Bay Partners, BlueRun Ventures, and Leapfrog Ventures.

Shah, a graduate from Stanford University, knows the business well. He spent nearly five years as the CEO of Andale, a Sunnvyale, Calif -based company that helps small merchants put listings on eBay.

In 2005, he decided to focus on Riya. The idea was to let users tag their photo albums so users can later type in a name and search through their photos using Riya to find a match.

Riya’s idea of making facial search as easy text search made it a favourite among Valley bloggers. But the company lacked a clear business model. So, barely months after the site launched, Shah went back to the drawing board and started over as Like.com.

Like.com uses the core visual search engine of Riya and layers features on top of it. The site creates a “visual signature” for every image, or a mathematical representation of the image using 32,000 variables. If enough variables are identical to the search query, Like.com decides the images are similar. So users can enter a query for ‘red patent leather shoes’, or ‘brown argyle sweater’ to find results from a number of online retailers including Amazon.com down to the color and style.
It’s the direction the industry is headed in, says Mulpuru. Traditional comparison engines like shopping.com, or PriceGrabber are about getting the cheapest price. With Like.com, it is more about discovery. “It is about helping you find new items,” she says.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy though. Shah’s decision to shutter his Bangalore office last April invited a barrage of criticism when he blogged about it. “Costs in Bangalore have risen and risen and salaries are now about 75 per cent of U.S wages,” says Shah. “At that point, it stops making sense for a startup to outsource so we offered to relocate some of our employees.”

Of the eight engineers who were given offers to move to the company’s headquarters in the U.S., only four finally came through. “The rest found jobs at higher pay in India,” says Shah.

Spreading the word about Like.com is his biggest challenge now, says Mulpuru. “To their advantage, they have a good URL (Internet address), and have gotten a lot of attention from blogger sand they have been pretty smart to carve out relationships with some of the big magazine publishers,” she says.

Mentions of Like.com in fashion magazines have brought in new visitors to the site and its traffic has doubled every quarter for the last four quarters both in revenue and users, says Shah. The site makes money every time a user clicks through to a merchant.

“They have has grown pretty rapidly given that the company is just about two years old,” says Mulpuru. “They seem to be in good shape.”

(The author is a Silicon Valley-based journalist)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Shantanu Muluk, a climate activist, arrives at National Cyber Forensic Lab for an investigation, in New Delhi, India, February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(REUTERS)
Shantanu Muluk, a climate activist, arrives at National Cyber Forensic Lab for an investigation, in New Delhi, India, February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(REUTERS)

Toolkit case: Shantanu Muluk’s bail plea hearing today

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:40 AM IST
Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana, who granted bail to Ravi on Tuesday, posted Muluk’s bail application for arguments on Thursday. Muluk had got transit bail from the Bombay high court on February 16 for a period of 10 days.
Close
In two parallel investigations, the CBI is also probing a multi-crore coal smuggling scam. (FILE PHOTO)
In two parallel investigations, the CBI is also probing a multi-crore coal smuggling scam. (FILE PHOTO)

CBI names TMC youth leader in charge-sheet of cattle smuggling case

PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:17 AM IST
  • Earlier this month, CBI in the first charge-sheet in the case had named BSF Commandant Satish Kumar and Murshidabad-based businessman Enamul Haque along with five others for their alleged involvement in cattle smuggling across the India-Bangladesh border.
Close
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade. (HT PHOTO).
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade. (HT PHOTO).

Top court proposes cadre of magistrates to fill gaps in police investigation

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:55 PM IST
  • The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat apart from Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde were of the view that magistrates should play a more “intrusive” role in investigation.
Close
Police said the accused surrendered after killing the woman.(Representational Photo/Getty Images)
Police said the accused surrendered after killing the woman.(Representational Photo/Getty Images)

College student in Andhra Pradesh killed for rejecting marriage proposal

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:44 PM IST
  • Police said the accused and the victim were in a relationship for a year, but of late she had been avoiding him.
Close
Currently, the Railways have operationalized almost 65 per cent of Mail/Express trains and over 90 per cent of suburban services as compared to pre lockdown times. (HT PHOTO).
Currently, the Railways have operationalized almost 65 per cent of Mail/Express trains and over 90 per cent of suburban services as compared to pre lockdown times. (HT PHOTO).

Higher fares for short distance trains to discourage needless travel: Railways

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:31 PM IST
  • The national carrier at present is operating only special passenger trains since the curbs on lockdown were eased. Regular passenger trains have been suspended since March 25, 2020.
Close
When asked about the new strains of the virus that have been found in several parts of the country, Guleria said authorities are closely monitoring the situation.(ANI photo)
When asked about the new strains of the virus that have been found in several parts of the country, Guleria said authorities are closely monitoring the situation.(ANI photo)

New strains not more infectious, need to aggressively monitor situation: Guleria

ANI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:28 PM IST
"Currently we have vaccines with efficacy of 70 per cent , 80 per cent, 90 per cent so even if there is slight fall in efficacy they will still be effective in preventing the virus from further spreading," Guleria told in an interview to ANI.
Close
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel recovered 2 Improvised Explosive Devices (1 pressure cooker and 1 pipe type) placed in a series manner near Dhanora, Narayanpur on Tuesday. (ANI photo)
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel recovered 2 Improvised Explosive Devices (1 pressure cooker and 1 pipe type) placed in a series manner near Dhanora, Narayanpur on Tuesday. (ANI photo)

2 security personnel killed in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur in Maoist attacks

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:16 PM IST
  • Both the casualties took place due to IED blasts.
Close
Motera Stadium is the world's largest cricket stadium. (PTI)
Motera Stadium is the world's largest cricket stadium. (PTI)

Govt clarifies on controversy over Motera stadium being named after PM

Written by Prashasti Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:22 PM IST
Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera, inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind, is part of a larger complex, named 'Sardar Patel Sports Complex'.
Close
Twitter ignored orders to remove content over farmers' protests.(Reuters)
Twitter ignored orders to remove content over farmers' protests.(Reuters)

India plans new social media controls after Twitter face-off

Reuters, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:03 PM IST
The latest draft rules say companies should remove the content as early as possible, but no later than 36 hours, after a government or legal order.
Close
Sanbor Shullai, one of the two BJP MLAs in Meghalaya, has described hi party as a sinking ship. (HT PHOTO)
Sanbor Shullai, one of the two BJP MLAs in Meghalaya, has described hi party as a sinking ship. (HT PHOTO)

Differences in Meghalaya BJP intensifies, coalition govt comes under strain

By David Laitphlang
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:52 PM IST
  • The BJP unit has also been at loggerheads with the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) dispensation with its chief Earnest Mawrie accusing it of anomalies in governance.
Close
Shahjahanpur's police chief said a few suspects have been detained for questioning .(Representational Photo/PTI)
Shahjahanpur's police chief said a few suspects have been detained for questioning .(Representational Photo/PTI)

UP cops hunt for clues into case of college girl found with burn injuries

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:03 PM IST
  • Shahjahanpur’s superintendent of police S Anand, SP, denied reports that the girl was burnt after a failed rape attempt
Close
An SDRF team widening the channel of a glacial lake in Uttarakhand to increase the discharge of water from it on Wednesday.(SDRF)
An SDRF team widening the channel of a glacial lake in Uttarakhand to increase the discharge of water from it on Wednesday.(SDRF)

Expert team widens mouth of lake formed upstream Rishiganga for faster drainage

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:39 PM IST
  • An expert team is trying to drain out the lake to prevent another tragedy like the Chamoli flash flood.
Close
The Koya tribes in large numbers make it a point to assemble at Medaram on “Magha Suddha Pournami” (the full-moon day of the month of Magha) every year to pay obeisance to the deities. (HT PHOTO).
The Koya tribes in large numbers make it a point to assemble at Medaram on “Magha Suddha Pournami” (the full-moon day of the month of Magha) every year to pay obeisance to the deities. (HT PHOTO).

Amid Covid-19 fears, thousands throng Telangana’s Sammakka-Saralamma festival

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:34 PM IST
  • The tribal fair draws devotees not only from Telangana, but also from other states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Close
The results will be considered valid if the test was 72 hours of flight departure. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)(PTI)
The results will be considered valid if the test was 72 hours of flight departure. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)(PTI)

West Bengal makes RT-PCR tests mandatory for arrivals from Maha, 3 other states

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:28 PM IST
  • The notice released by the state government stated “All passengers coming to West Bengal from the aforementioned 4 states shall mandatorily carry a covid negative RT-PCR report for such test conducted within 72 hours of flight departure.”
Close
Army troopers near the encounter site in Shalgul forests in Anantnag district on Wednesday.(ANI)
Army troopers near the encounter site in Shalgul forests in Anantnag district on Wednesday.(ANI)

2 terrorists killed in encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’ Anantnag

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:17 PM IST
  • The police said they were ascertaining the identities and affiliation of the two terrorists.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP