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BW Businessworld

Speaking The Language

From winning Government of India’s Aatmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge in August 2020 to attracting investments, Koo has had a remarkable journey so far

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India’s burgeoning economy is proof that the country is in the middle of business transformation today and has become home to some of the biggest startups in the world, branching across domains. Many startups have emerged from the ocean of opportunities to make their mark and Koo is one such name that is enjoying a serendipitous journey since last year, if growth in numbers and investments attracted are anything to go by.

Committed to proffer an open expression platform for the Indian audience, that ensures a deeply immersive experience in Indian languages, Koo’s journey began in March 2020 in Mandya. After having worked on the initial feedback, the company won the Government of India’s Aatmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge in August 2020, and as they say, the rest is history.

Giving a sense of the initial hiccups, Aprameya Radhakrishna, Co-founder & CEO, Koo says, “Most of the challenges have been internal, such as getting a team together, getting them inspired enough to work, making sure we are superfast because the expectations are so much. Also, the expectations from a one-year-old startup are tremendous. But that also encourages us. The external market hasn’t been a big challenge. It’s significant pressure for us to equip ourselves with resources, whether its capital, team, users, the community, etc.”

The platform’s founders focused on building a team that was “really passionate about building a social network for India”, giving voice to everyone, irrespective of their language.

“There are a lot of people who are joining us because they understand the problem that we are trying to solve and that inspires us. Our prime focus remains on building a team that helps us solve the underlying problem,” adds Mayank Bidawatka, Co-founder, Koo.

The next step for the app is to go hyperlocal in its approach and presence. “Giving a nuanced expression platform for a country, as dynamic as this in local languages, is very important. Also, because we are from India, it is natural for us to be conscious of what is expected in a market like this. We bring that culture into bridging any gap, and this reflects in our product. It includes respecting local laws and building the product around them. No matter which country we go to, we will respect their local laws because that is not the kind of disruption we are seeking. We travel around the world because we want to experience different cultures, and at Koo, you can do that too,” Bidawatka explained.

Koo is among the younger companies that are riding the media tech wave. It is safe to say that this home-grown media company is playing a pivotal role in contributing to the overall media ecosystem in India.

QUICK TAKE /Aprameya Radhakrishna

On investments in media tech start-up ecosystem…
The foundation of internet products is based on very fundamental use cases of information, communication, connection and expression. The new-age online audience has never been able to use social media for open self-expression since most existing social media are in English. Everyone must get to express themselves and have the ability for that expression to reach an audience of relevance. Start-ups from education, finance, health will gain a lot more traction once there is a strong reach to a wider audience that is using social media beyond just content consumption.

On the type of media start-ups that attract more attention…
Koo is built on an extremely strong foundation of people connecting with each other around thoughts in local Indian languages. As long as there is a clear reason for people to connect with each other and a unique network can be formed, the platform becomes valuable.

On Koo’s primary revenue driver…
Koo is a pre-revenue company right now. Advertising would be one of the most basic ways that we would experiment with to generate revenue.

On growth strategies for 2021…
Koo is a company that grows with a strong community. We will continue to build a community that will enable rich conversations leading to further growth.
RAPID FIRE /Mayank Bidawatka

On growth from last year…
Koo has come a long way with 8 million-plus downloads in the last 15 months.

On consumer behaviour fuelling the growth of media startups…
Consumers these days prefer snacky content. Attention span is reducing drastically, and hence any platform that supports short and crisp content will do well. Koo is an example of short and crisp content, with every post being limited to 400 characters.

On media startups scaling up their operations
For Koo, it’s a lot about getting our systems ready for an enormous scale. So, hiring high-quality engineering talent is the top priority for us to achieve this.