EgyptFeatures/Interviews

Yellow Pages phone directory expands into digital realm

In a continuous effort to create the ultimate free-of-charge service to its clients, Yellow Pages Ltd. has introduced a number of novel technologies. No longer a simple guidebook and phone directory, Yellow Pages now connects with its clients on more than one level.

The directory's services have expanded from the usual huge book available at almost every workplace around Egypt to include a website enhanced with a mapping service, a mobile-based application for Iphone users, and multiple partnerships between Yellow Pages Ltd. and other websites, companies and governmental institutions.

On Sunday, a press conference was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Garden City, Cairo, to announce the new services and partnerships. Led by Yellow Pages Egypt Managing Director Marc Lambert, the event highlighted the achievements of Yellow Pages in 2010 and its plans for the current year.

“According to studies, 20 percent of searches made online are location-based services,” said Lambert in his opening speech. “That makes sense, because a lot of people are looking for services near them and want to know where to go, where to dine, which doctor they need, etc.”

Lambert pointed out that many Yellow Pages users were now accessing the website via phone. “When you’re on your phone, you tend to look for a service that is nearby your current location,” he explained.

Since the use of electronic mapping services and GPS on mobile devices was legalized in Egypt, an agreement was made between NAVTEQ (the leading global provider of digital map, traffic and location data that enables navigation and location-based platforms around the world), Nokia (via its online website, OVI), and Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. to provide this service on Nokia mobile phones using data made available by Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd.

Yellow Pages representative Mohamed Salah points out that the company “provides data for those in need of it,” explaining that the the new GPS technology would allow people to find locations of interest easily. According to Salah, the directory–both print and electronic–includes data for over 175,000 businesses and 115,000 map locations. Some 70 percent of this data is geo-coded.

This data is used in GPSs in cars and PNDs (personal navigation devices). The agreement allowed Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. to become the sole advertising agent for the NAVTEQ Platform and the Nokia OVI Maps Platform in Egypt in one of the most important strategic agreements made to provide this service locally.

“We used all of the Yellow Pages database in our mapping system,” said Mohamed Abd al-Gelil, Nokia's head of solutions sales, North Africa, “allowing our users free navigation in most of the cities and areas of Egypt with different locations of interest marked in our maps.”

A live demo presentation of the multiple services of the NAVTEQ platform followed, showcasing that 70 percent of Egyptian land is covered by these maps, which include 91 3D pictures of different landmarks and building footprints for easy access through navigation.

At the forefront of Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd.’s cooperative agreements in 2010 was its collaboration with Egypt’s Ministry of Administrative Development to provide government mapping services for the country’s e-government portal, www.egypt.gov.eg. This project continued with the launch of mapping services for Egyptian citizens, which help them locate government service authorities through Yellow.com.eg and now include door-to-door routing directions.

“We are trying to provide Egyptian citizens with a service that allows them easy access to e-governmental websites and integrates that with a map of the most important governmental offices around Cairo,” said Sahar Afifi, project manager at the Ministry of State for Administrative Development. She explained that the project began in March 2010 with great success and now aims to allow users to directly download government forms and applications.

What's more, a cooperative agreement was penned between Al-Masry Al-Youm and Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. that allows users of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s website to search Yellow.com.eg. In addition, Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. received exclusive advertising space on Al-Masry’s website to enable its customer base to benefit from the broad traffic reach of Al-Masry’s reader base.

“We are providing a new service through allowing Yellow Pages to install small blocks of advertisement space on our website,” said Kismat al-Sayed, business development director at Al-Masry Al-Youm. “Some companies would be able to pay for better coverage of their business on our website, allowing their logo, address and telephone to be presented here.”

According to al-Sayed, some company information could be lost among the huge database on the Yellow Pages website. “Many companies might not be seen due to the huge number of companies working in the same business,” she pointed out. "Our advertisement space would allow them better exposure in the Internet realm.”

Al-Sayed added that the technique used on the Al-Masry Al-Youm website was similar to that of Google Ads. “Studies show that text ads are much more effective than the usual banners, as they tend not to annoy the reader while still keeping attention on the company,” she said. "This way, any company can join in so as to be in a prime location on our website and benefit from the high traffic on our website. It’s a win-win situation for all parties.”

The agreement between Yellow Pages and Al-Masry Al-Youm will develop into including a Yellow Pages search bar in the interface of the Al-Masry Al-Youm website, allowing Al-Masry Al-Youm readers to search for all services provided by Yellow Pages. “We are interested in developing our services to enhance the experience of the website's users,” said al-Sayed. "We like to partner up with already-established companies to help us give our readers the highest quality of Internet service.”

Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. has also joined hands with akhbarak.net, the Middle East’s leading news-aggregating agency in an advertising partnership, as well as an online and SMS-based directory. “Similar to the Al-Masry Al-Youm partnership, Akhbarak’s user base can search for Egypt-based companies on its site by pulling data from Yellow.com.eg’s databank," said Akhbarak.net founder Othman Ahmed Othman.

Joint SMS directory Dalilik was created for people who are “on the go.” Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat mobile phone subscribers can simply send the name of the company for which they need the telephone number and/or address, indicating where that business is located, to 9110, and the data is returned to the sender immediately.

It’s worth mentioning that Internet revenues have doubled since last year, and monthly traffic on Yellow.com.eg tripled from January 2010 to December 2010.

In recent years, Egypt has witnessed an explosive increase in mobile phone users and a growing trend toward using smart phones and 3G services. Over and above Mobile Yellow Pages, most commonly used with Nokia devices, Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd also provides its services through an application that can be installed on iPhones supporting GPS location-based services. It will launch an application for Blackberry handsets in February 2011 that will support these services.

According to the event’s press release, restaurants came first in searches made on Yellow.com.eg, followed by hotels and companies/businesses. It was also noticed that Arabic-language searches on the website (54 percent) surpassed those made in English (46 percent) in 2010.

Along with all these successes, Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. was also engaged in the community in which it operates. Due to its feelings of responsibility toward its community, Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. made charitable donations to the Children’s Cancer Hospital, in addition to providing charity organizations with free advertising in its directory.

Just as social responsibility was a priority in its community activities, the environment was also at the top of its list of priorities. Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. came out with a new print directory, which is smaller in size and uses recycled paper and environmentally friendly ink. Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd. collects its old directories from hotels before delivering new ones, donating the old ones to the Resala Charity Association, which then recycles them.

Finally, Yellow Pages distribution is expected to surpass 370,000 print directories in 2011, while more than one million visits per month are expected on Yellow.com.eg.

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