“We are creating a true people platform”

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on April 18, 2021

A bird in hand: Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder of Koo

‘Desi Twitter challenger’ Koo on connecting like-minded folks

It’s just over a year since Koo, the social network that created quite a buzz when ministers and celebrities started endorsing it, launched. A couple of months ago it raised $4.1 million in funding. “We are one of the few companies that is creating a true people network. Here it is not so much about the content but about connecting people,” says Mayank Bidawatka, co founder Koo. Excerpts from a chat:


You have been compared a lot to Twitter. Yet, you describe yourself as a platform that connects people. Isn’t that more a Facebook USP?

People connect for various reasons. They may be connecting with you on Facebook because you are already a friend. When you connect with people on something like Koo, you are connecting basis their thoughts. We are different from pure content platforms that start showing content whether or not you follow people. Because it is about content. On ours, it is about the person who is creating content. Only when you follow will you get content.

What is the reason that Koo captured the imagination of so many celebrities, and gained prominence? Is it because of the Atmanirbhar feeling?

The most fundamental thing was to do with what problem we were solving. If that problem was not relevant, we would not have an app challenge, and come to the forefront. We are being discussed because India has a unique problem. Ninety per cent of our country does not prefer English. Two, we have massive language diversity. If you look at global products, language diversity is more an after thought for them. For us, language diversity is the only thought. We developed the product keeping the sensitivity and nuance of the Indian subcontinent in mind.

Have any brands adopted Koo yet? Are brands talking of a Koo strategy?

There are a few early adopters. There is Amul for instance, which has a presence and has even created an ad for Koo. There are brands that are early adopters while others will wait for a platform to become large. A lot of government agencies are there catering to the masses.

Are you building tools for brands to use?

Not yet. But yes we eventually will. It has not been a priority till now. The first priority has been our users, then creators and the VIP community, the most prominent faces of the country. When we have a large platform that enables all these people to connect with each other it will become natural for brands to get on it. We will come to that when we have deeper experiences.

What is the current number of users?

We have crossed 5.5 million downloads.

What about the average time that users spend on the platform?

We don’t share this information publicly.

Where are the downloads mostly coming from? What language communities?

Hindi is the largest language in terms of percentage of people who speak it. Then Kannada, and English. We have just launched Bengali as a soft launch especially given the political action there. Marathi is an up and rising language.

If you do an analysis of the content, what are the conversations like?

People discuss a lot of local issues, and local topics. Each language has different types of topics being discussed. In Kannada, a lot of the chat is about culture. In English, it is more political. People also discuss daily topics. There is a lot of chat with sports, and entertainment. In Hindi , there is poetry, and again culture. So, it is quite diverse.

Audio spaces are the new trending thing. Will you also do audio rooms?

We are a company that thinks use cases rather than trends and fads. We look at users and say what tool is required for them and can be built for them. You need to map user interest with tools and not the other way round.

Give a few examples of how you create tool for users.

Simple example is that people do not want to create content by typing on a keyboard. Everyone may not be used to typing. Hence they may want to record their voice. We have audio creations and video creations. Facebook and Twitter do not have this feature. So this is an example of an Indian nuance.

Published on April 18, 2021

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