Iranian search engines process more than 700K search queries and 200K Q&A per day. That’s a small number comparing to 4.5B searches per day over Google, but we can say it’s a good start.
A Little Bit of Background
Throughout the last couple of years due to the international sanctions and local filtering of some international services, the market became a fertile ground for Iranian startups to thrive. The country basically developed local versions of many internet giants such as Digikala equivalent of Amazon, Aparat equivalent of Youtube, Snapp equivalent of Uber and so on. So far we’ve been successful at cloning and localizing such services and startups. However, building search engine platforms is one of the most complicated businesses of all, and the competition in this sector is really fierce. To give you a grasp of the situation answer this question: When was the last time that you heard about a new search engine or tried to use another one? The answer would probably be never. That’s the case with the local search engines in Iran.
It Started Too Late
Maybe search engine market is a tough one but there is an opportunity here as well. Take a look at Yandex in Russia, founded in 1997 or Baidu in China, founded 2000. Both of these search engines won the market with the help from their government which is not a bad thing as long as they offer the same quality service to their customers. Regarding Iranian search engines, in 2001 the study phase for the first Iranian search engine started and the first version of the search engine named Parsijoo was released in 2010. You can simply guess the 9 years of study phase was too long in the tech world.
What’s the Current State
According to Council Secretary of Local Search Engine Governance, Alireza Yari, today Iranian search engines are handling 700K searches per day plus 200K Q&A. Most of the search engines in the world have more than 1000 employees but the combined number of employees working for Iranian search engines is not as near as this figure. While Iranian search engines are understaffed and suffering from lack of funding, they have already started the work on Persian script and language processing and ranking. They even provide added services such as news, multimedia and map search engines. Today the leading Iranian search engine, Parsijoo can deliver results up to 80% accuracy comparing to foreign search engines such as Google for Persian or Farsi language. Of course, currently the local search engines can’t compete with the foreign ones on English search queries.
Up until now, only 50 billion Tomans (nearly $13.5M) of credit has been assigned to the local search engine project by the government, of which 30 billion Tomans has been spent on the project. The leading Iranian search engines, Parsijoo and Yooz only had 2 billion Tomans cut for their processing infrastructure from this government backed credit.
According to Alireza Yari, Iran now has the potential for 1000 billion Tomans (nearly $270M) of online advertisement which indicates the importance of this sector. However, a very small percentage of this market has been tapped but with enough investment in Iranian search engines, this sector can create thousands of direct and indirect jobs similar to the messaging apps in the country.