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As Twitter roils under Elon Musk, India’s Koo quietly plans a coup

As Twitter roils under Elon Musk, India’s Koo quietly plans a coup

As Twitter roils under Elon Musk, India’s Koo quietly plans a coup
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By Vijay Anand  Nov 21, 2022 5:35:42 PM IST (Updated)

Founded in 2020, India's own microblogging platform Koo has been making giant strides and, with 50 million downloads, claims to be the second largest such platform in the world after troubled Twitter. Its founders say their journey so far has been about India and now, they're focusing on the rest of the world.

The past few weeks since Elon Musk took over Twitter have been dramatic, to put it mildly. The microblogging platform has been rocked by sudden feature announcements, mass layoffs, resignations en masse, and an exodus of users. Now, its future seems a little uncertain.

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And all this while, India’s own microblogging platform Koo has been quietly plugging away, adding users, new features and basically positioning itself to take the crown should Twitter crash and burn — unlikely as that may seem.
Founded in 2020 by Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka as an Indian alternative to Twitter, Koo has since clocked 50 million downloads recently, which the company claims makes it the second largest microblogging platform in the world.
Both platforms are similar — they both are meant for quick takes, both have verified user accounts, but where Koo stands out is that it allows users to use their KYC document to self-verify for a green tick, and gives celebrities an VIP users “yellow ticks of eminence”.
Further, the app supports several languages —  Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, Bengali, English and, as of Monday, Portuguese.
So, how is Koo positioned right now with the angling turmoil at Twitter?
Aprameya says the platform assign an influx of users since Musk took over.
“With the changes happening at Twitter, we did see a spike in new user acquisition. It’s been higher than usual. It’s clear that people around the world are looking for alternatives to Twitter. We are in the best position to fill this void,” Aprameya told CNBC-TV18.com.
He said they have made the easiest micro-blogging tool that’s being used “extensively by millions of users and VIPs” and that it’s time to make this available to a larger global audience as well.
Recently, Koo announced host of new features, such as enabling users to upload up to 10 profile pictures, save a Koo, schedule Koos and save drafts. Aprameya says it’s used in more than 100 countries and they have plans to expand well beyond that, based mainly on the fact that they offer native language support.
“About 80% of India and the World speak a language other than English. Twitter was largely catering to the English audiences globally. While it had some language features, it’s nowhere close to the immersive experiences we have built,” Aprameya says.
He adds that solving the problem of connecting native language speakers is core to their purpose and their raison d’être. “We just have to let the word out in global markets about our availability to build traction in those markets too. We are very excited about inviting a larger global audience to this proudly ‘Made in India’ product,” he says.
One of Musk’s most hotly contested moves was to charge $8 per month, or Rs 719 in India, for the coveted blue checkmark. It was once seen as a badge of honour — one of recognition and verification. But now, with anyone theoretically being able to buy one, the effect is diluted and, at this moment in time, Appramreya says Koo has no plans for charging users for self-verification or yellow ticks, now or in the future.
“Indian users are able to self-verify their identity using their Aadhaar card through a very secure process that provides them with a green tick of self verification within seconds. International users will be able to do this through some elegant process we are building. This should be available within a week from now. We don't charge for any of the tick marks we offer. Be it the eminence tick or the self-verification green tick. We don't intend to charge for these fundamental rights in the future either,” he assures.
With an increasing userbase — 50 million and counting — and over 7,500 ticks of eminence in two-and-a-half years, Aprameya is looking forward to growing Koo even further.
“The monthly active user number keep changing every month and has been rising over the last few months. We have got a lot of love from India. In a short span we’ve been able to create a mark here. We are the second largest micro-blog available to the world, the largest language community in Hindi and some of the other native languages on the platform. We have managed to build a world class product and built great tech that can power conversations around the world,” Aprameya says.
He says their basic aim with Koo was to drive digital freedom of expression for billions of voices, on being inclusive, leaving no one behind and making sure every person who wishes to express themselves in their mother tongue has a safe place to do so.
“For us, the journey till now has been about India. The journey ahead will be about the world,” Aprameya says.
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