For those familiar with the Mahabharata, Dronacharya mentored the Pandavas and the Kauravas on martial arts. The name Drona in itself meant teacher. In the modern day, we all have our Dronas. They aid us with knowledge and this knowledge is in turn used to make good decisions.
Inspired by this concept, Vikas Singh decided to make Dronna.com, which would help its users make educated buying decisions. This contextual search engine allows its users to search for information about products and services. However, it presents this information in the form of suggestions and opinions from other users on the platform.
Context is King
Social Media has affected search in a very fundamental way. People don't want plain information anymore. Social proof, especially from those who influence you, influences much more than plain information. Vikas Singh echoes the same sentiment. He says, "The other day, we put out a comic which showed a guy going to buy an Android smartphone after many days of research. After meeting a friend, he thereafter seen at an iStore. Essentially, there is too much information on the internet and it is impossible to go through it all before making a buying decision. Secondly, people influence buying decisions much more than information. So, Dronna was essntially inspired from this concept, of curating information from people who influence you as opinions and suggestions."
Dronna currently reads off your Facebook Graph and checks out friends of your's who're using the application. Subsequently, Dronna can also be accessed as a Facebook app. Search results are presented as what your social circle thinks about the product, what your trusted group thinks (which you can add, called your clan) and what the rest of the world thinks. Also, you can search with keywords or check out questions asked by yourself, your clan, your social circle and the rest of the world. Donna also allows you the function of answering questions posted by others as well.
Now all this data is crunched by Dronna's back end engine and based on their propriety learning algorithms, search results should get better with time. However, this is subject to the number of Dronna users from your social graph.
Biting more than you can chew?
Firstly, I would like to make it clear that I think this is brilliant idea. By not altering conventional search behavior, Dronna is much more usable tool than say, something like Facebook Graph Search. Furthermore, rather than inferring someone's likes and dislikes on borrowed knowledge from the pages that a user likes, this is real, first hand data from users, which is a lot more accurate. It definitely has the technology to pull this off and an able team working out of the Kyron accelerator working on making the product better by the day.
The challenge however lies in marketing the product. It needs enough users on it for it start performing well. Some sort of "invite you friends" for a first time user can help. Also having conventional search results from a search engine for a product might help as well. Right now, my only Facebook friend who uses Dronna is Vikas Singh. So as a user, there isn't much that Dronna is giving me right now.
However, if there are enough users on the platform, I think it can generate significant user time. Culturally, Vikas believes that Dronna can have a novel impact. He says, "Why can't a neighbor who makes great cupcakes show up in search results? Or the number an auto driver who is reliable an fair? The world is so full of negative news. This at some level can be a platform for positive things to reach a large number of people."
I certainly hope that it does.
Dronna is in private beta now. Check it out here.