which is making waves for having garnered over two million downloads in the past fortnight, will continue to court users from across the Indian political landscape without being aligned to any specific ideology, company executives and investors said.
The year-old app has been likened to the
US’ Parler—a social media app popular with that country’s right-wing users. Koo
was embraced by users who flocked to the Indian site after larger rival Twitter Inc. was embroiled in a faceoff with the government for hosting accounts alleged to be fomenting protests against the farm bills.
“Neither am I right-wing or left-wing, nor is my technology or product,” Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and chief executive of the Koo app, said, terming the labels as basically “a lot of people’s perception”.
“As a company, we don’t want to be political, we are a private company interested in technology and product,” said the 39-year-old, whose first outing as a startup entrepreneur was when he set up mobility app TaxiForSure, before selling it to rival Ola.
“We are actually going after 600 million people who have internet access today (but) don’t have a place to share thoughts and opinions,” Radhakrishna said.
PM Endorsed App
In recent days, several notables—including Union Minister Piyush Goyal and the government’s premier think-tank Niti Aayog—
have registered on the Koo app. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also endorsed the app on Mann Ki Baat.
Pointing out that at any given time, “multiple parties run multiple states”, Radhakrishna said Koo has been in touch with a lot of political leaders across party lines. “As a registered company in India, (Koo) will have to follow the laws of land, irrespective of who is running the government.”
During February 1-14, Koo generated 2.5 million downloads in India, an increase of 1,556% from the 151,000 installs it accumulated in the two weeks prior, according to Sensor Tower’s estimates.
Koo is available in five Indian languages—Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Marathi—apart from English. It plans to add 12 more Indian languages soon, according to details available on the app. It also plans to add many more features for regional language users, including quick translations.
The app, which was a winner of the government-sponsored App Challenge and is being touted as an “atmanirbhar” alternative to Twitter, received a funding of Rs 20 lakh from the government last July. In the 10 months since its launch, the app has seen over 5.6 million downloads on Google and Apple app stores, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Koo’s top investors are of the view that India is not a large enough media market to start delineating a service on ideological lines. “It wasn’t our original intention and it is foolish to create that kind of division even at this stage,” said Karthik Reddy, founder and partner, Blume Ventures, an investor in Koo, who reckons that “to have a politically affiliated media platform in this country is a limiting option.”
has also received funding from Facebook-backer Accel’s Indian arm, Kalaari Capital, and former Infosys board member TV Mohandas Pai’s 3one4 Capital. Pai has been a vocal critic of Twitter and called it a left-wing platform that gives voice to “anti-nationals” and “extremists.” On the latest developments, Pai told ET, “Koo is an independent platform that gives precedence to Indian languages. It has no ideology and is open to all.”
Industry experts estimate that the biggest challenge for apps such as Koo is generating critical mass. “Where most of a user’s network is on app, (it’s important to) make it engaging enough for those users to be active in the app, make it a habit and stay for the long-term,” said Craig Chapple, mobile insights strategist, EMEA, Sensor Tower.
Government departments such as MyGov have also opened accounts on the platform in order to give it a push and visibility. Others who have joined the Koo app include official handles such as Digital India, India Post, National Informatics Centre, National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, Common Services Centre, Umang app, DigiLocker, National Internet Exchange of India, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs.