With the Indian government locked in a tussle with microblogging site Twitter over blocking of accounts, a multilingual Indian alternative called Koo has now come to the forefront. Several ministers and departments of the Union Government have now flocked to this app, and statements are already being issued by ministries using this platform.
Koo is one of the new indigenous apps to take wing under the Indian government's Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, aimed at making India self-reliant.
What Is Koo?
The Bengaluru-based app was developed by entrepreneurs Aprameya Radhakrisna and Mayank Bidwatka, and was launched in the beginning of 2020. It provides microblogging services, much like Twitter, in several different Indian languages including Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Odiya and Assamese.
The app became known last year following its victory in the government's Atmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge. Recently, when Twitter defied blocking orders by the government over some of the accounts on the platform, several Union Ministers joined the app to encourage others to migrate.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology also put out a statement yesterday, in response to Twitter's statement over the blocking orders on the Koo app.
Who Are Its Investors?
In 2018, the company had raised Series A funding from a clutch of investors, including Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital, Blume Ventures and Dream Incubator. It recently got a fresh round of funding from some new investors, including 3one4 Capital backed by former Infosys CEO Mohandas Pai.
Founder Aprameya Radhakrishna tweeted yesterday that a Chinese investor (single digit shareholder) - Shunwei Capital - will be exiting as an investor
Who Is Using Koo?
Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Members of Parliament Tejaswi Surya, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, cricketer Anil Kumble and Isha Foundation's Jaggi Vasudev are some of those who have joined the app.
In addition, India Post, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and NITI Aayog are some of government departments to set up account on the platform.
Following Twitter's refusal to block accounts of journalists, new media, activists and politicians who tweeted on the farmers protest, Koo saw a sudden surge in its user base.
Koo will not be the first locally made app to be presented as an alternative to another popular app. Following the banning of Tik Tok - which was one of India's most popular apps - indigenous apps like Chingari has tasted success carrying the userbase left over by TikTok.
Following the ban of former US President Donald Trump from Twitter earlier this year, the microblogging platform has been generally seen as being sympathetic to left-leaning ideologies, leading to many from the right-wing around the world look for alternatives. After Trump's ban from Twitter, another similar platform called Parler came to light, which garnered crowds of right-wing users overnight.
In India too, Twitter faced an outcry from the right, following the addition of 'manipulated media' tag on a misleading tweet by BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya. The latest statement by the company on refusing to follow the blocking orders has been seen as further defiance of the Modi-led right wing administration.
Koo - currently having 3 million users and counting - might not just be an alternative for right-wing users leaving Twitter. Given the uncertainty over Twitter's future operations in India, it is looking at the possibility of taking over a much larger user base, in case the California-based company meets the same fate as TikTok. But not many tech analysts are betting on a ban as that would mean a direct confrontation not just with a widely popular technology platform but also the US administration who sees Twitter as a success of the Silicon Valley ecosystem of innovation.