I am sure you are aware of the recent war between the Indian Government and Twitter over tweets and accounts linked to the continuing farmers’ protests against a series of agriculture reform laws. Twitter had first blocked some 250 accounts in response to a legal notice by the government, citing objections based on public order. These accounts were restored six hours later. This created mounting tension between the app and the Government, leading to the question of the app’s sustainability in India.
What if I tell you that there is a Made-in-India Twitter alternative?
The Indian Startup Koo is India’s great Aatmanirbhar initiative; it is India’s first micro-blogging site for Indians in Indian languages. This platform gives every Indian a chance to voice their opinion in their native language.
Koo was launched in 2020 by co-founders Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka.
Aprameya Radhakrishna had co-founded TaxiForSure, and Mayank Bidawatka had co-founded RedBus, so this startup is backed by good expertise.
Koo was voted as India’s best Daily Essential App on Playstore for 2020.
Koo App was also the winner of the Aatmanirbhar App Challenge for 2020 and got a special mention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Koo App will be available to users in 12 Indian languages.
From where did the co-founders get the inspiration to develop the Koo App?
According to Mayank, 90% of the Indian population cannot understand English – only 10% of the population know English. There are 100 crore people in India who speak in more than 100 regional languages. With the Jio revolution, a majority of Indians have gotten access to to the internet through their smartphones. But the difficulty here is that there is very less content on the Internet in these regional languages. Since the platforms are in English, these people are finding it difficult. We wanted to make it easy for people to create and share content in their native language. On Koo app, people express themselves in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarathi, Bengali and Tamil languages.
According to Aprameya, India has seen three to four technology waves in recent times. IT Services was the first wave, and the second wave included the transactional startups that were inspired by Western startups. The third wave includes the trends that replicate even bigger global internet companies. When we replicate it in Indian languages, this is the third wave. Next when we start making products for the world, that would be the fourth wave. So, the third and fourth waves are actually opportunities for the Indian youth. They can choose to be part of this revolution.
The question arises here if Koo could compete with the global micro-blogging platforms. The founders are optimistic about it, and they say it is very much possible. With a population as large as ours, our internet population in the next few years is expected to touch almost 80 crores, which is double the size of the U.S. population. Thus, if size were to be taken into consideration, Koo could make a way bigger company than Twitter in India.
The recent investment of $4.1 million in Bombinate Technologies – Koo’s parent company — was led by 3one4 Capital, an Indian investor. Existing investors including 3one4 Capital, Kalaari and others will also be buying out some of the stake. Indian entrepreneurs like Ashish Hemrajani, BookMyShow Co-founder and CEO, Vivekananda HR, Co-founder and CEO, Bounce, and Nikhil Kamath, Co-founder and CEO, Zerodha, have invested in the company and are entering the cap table of the company. This is a clear indication that the company is getting more and more Indian money into the company.
The funding of $4.1 million will be used to ramp up capabilities to solve uniquely Indian engineering challenges, and for marketing to increase awareness about the app.
In all, the Twitter competitor is ‘Koo’ing to popularity In India, and it is not long before the majority of the Indian population are able to create and share good content in their native languages using this app.