EghtesadOnline: Several Iranian firms are mobilizing their efforts to introduce locally developed GPS navigation programs and Application Programming Interface services in order to help startups to reduce their overreliance on foreign products and cut expenses.
With Google Maps hiking the price of services up to 1,400% over the past few days, dozens of startups are now struggling to find cost-cutting strategies. One of the companies developing a local interactive map and offering API services is the knowledge-based company “Parsijoo”.
Application Programming Interface or API is a set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application or another service.
Parsijoo began work by introducing a search engine targeting Persian speaking users. In order to claim a bigger share of the market and following the example of the world’s leading technology firm Google, the Iranian company Parsijoo has introduced map and API services. Parsijoo Map is one of the first and most specialized homegrown map services in Iran, Financial Tribune reported.
The map currently displays nearly 650 Iranian cities and is utilized by eight local institutes including Imam Khomeini’s Relief Foundation. The foundation through one of its subgroups employs the map to help homeless people find shelters across the nation.
One of the other factors which have spurred map development is the escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington. In recent weeks, local news outlets have reported that Google Maps no longer offers API services to websites with their addresses ending with .ir— the Internet country code top-level domain for Iran.
Although Google has not yet denied or confirmed the reports, even the rumors highlight the necessity of designing local services which can help mitigate overdependence on foreign products.
Competing With Google
Parsijoo CEO Mohammad Hossein Zare stresses the need for development of domestic GPS navigation services, saying, “We must upgrade local services, least of all because we can always depend on them [as opposed to Google or other foreign firms], and the work and money put into homegrown applications must be considered an investment in sustainable growth.”
Moreover, Zare pointed to the price of such services, bringing to the fore Google’s overpriced products. Google Maps recently jacked up prices by 1,400%.
Google increased the prices of Google Maps API, limited the free tiers and now requires billing for all. The move triggered widespread criticism among developers and entrepreneurs.
Starting on June 21, all projects using Google Maps need to enable billing with a credit card and need to have a valid API key for all projects. From 18 individual APIs, Google simplified to 3 core products—Maps, Routes and Places—and Standard and Premium plans were merged in one pay-as-you-go pricing plan.
In the new system, developers will receive $200 of monthly usage for free. Google estimates that most will have monthly usage that will keep them within the free tier.
Free for All
In face of Google’s increased prices, Zare said Parsijoo’s services are currently free of charge, adding that “if the day arrives when we charge for our services, the cost will not be comparable to what Google demands.”
Asked whether the services will always remain free, Zare assured they have no short-term plan to receive fees for the services, explaining that “in the long-run, we plan to only charge big businesses.”
Underlining the company’s additional responsibility now that Google’s cooperation with Iranian users is in doubt, he said, “Our team is mobilizing efforts to cater to the needs of all Iranian users. We have a plan and we are confident we can produce results.”
Despite various hurdles, Parsijoo has released APIs, one of which is dedicated to maps and allows domestic startups to use the service for free.
On a final note, he added that they have designed a page for web developers with instructions on how to switch from Google Maps (or other foreign services) to Parsijoo Maps. Business owners can find related information on addmap.parsijoo.ir/addmap/.
Obstacles and Rivals
Same with other private companies, Parsijoo faces serious obstacles in its way to growth. An issue common with all domestic map developers is the municipalities’ refusal to provide the companies with aerial maps.
Parsijoo’s director says they are forced to carry out time-consuming and costly projects for municipalities with low returns to gain limited access to some data.
Two other major companies, Cafe Bazaar (major local Android app store) and Snapp (Iranian ride-hailing firm) are also developing digital map services.
Another company Cedar Map has developed one of the most complete homegrown maps. Cedar currently works with online delivery service Alopeik and e-riding app Carpino.
The company is poised to launch B2C (Business to Consumer) services in the near future.