Search giant Google on Tuesday launched an SMS search product in India with the promise that it would be much cheaper for the user than other existing alternatives. Currently, SMS search from most players requires one to send the query to a special number; the user is charged a premium, which varies between Rs 3 to Ts 5. However, a text to Google’s number – 9773300000 – would be charged standard rates, the firm’s product manager for search Alok Goel says.

Google India has been piloting the service in four cities and has now fine-tuned the product based on feed-back. High costs of SMS search was of course a bottleneck. Beside plugging this gap, the firm says it has decked the product with comprehensive features and ease of use. They want to bring the power if the internet to the hands of the mobile user according to Goel who points to the firms strategy of making information available to consumers through multiple access mediums.

People who could see SMS search, forms the ‘middle’ segment about 100 million in strength- they are sandwiched between online search and WAP users at te top and tradition voice search consumers at the other end of the spectrum. Google is now readying a voice product as well.

So what can you search in the firm’s SMS offering? One wouldn’t have the comfort of surfing through pages and pages of information as in the online space but has to be satisfied with what the company calls “information capsules”. Short, crisp and immediate stuff such as railway and flight information, local business, stock quotes, doses of entertainment and currency converters amongst others. Yes, like in online search you can receive definitions of terms you don’t  understand as well as facts – Rani Mukerjees real age, for instance !

Google is less willing to disclose monetization models right now and prefers building up user volumes as well as the brand first before talking money.

Meanwhile, Googles’s India Managing Director Shailesh Rao told that its ad revenues from India have not ben impacted by the current slowdown.

“It;s an environment which reminds you that you have to be vigilant about being as productive as possible and we are doing that. India has been a growth market for us. We are very excited to see growth consistently and we have expectations for the future as well”, said Shailesh Rao. The firm says it has experienced tremendous growth in the country and is focussed on hiring.