App flap: Twitter’s India troubles give native rival Koo a carry | Social Media Information
Koo has a fraction of the Twitter users but has surged recently following endorsements from Indian politicians in a dispute between the US site and the Indian government.
An Indian alternative to Twitter Inc. is growing in popularity after the US microblogging website clashed with the country’s government, a sign of growing political challenges for social media services.
The Koo app, which allows users to send tweet-like posts in English and seven Indian languages, became popular after the San Francisco-based company had a week-long dispute with the Indian government over blocking certain content. Prominent officials – including Piyush Goyal, the Minister of Industry and Commerce – went to Koo and urged supporters to follow suit.
This resulted in a 20-fold explosion in daily users who run the servers and the 10-person engineering team at parent company Bombinate Technologies Pvt. Ltd. overwhelmed. Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and chief executive officer, said the main goal of the Bangalore-based startup is not political at all, but rather to expand the reach of social media to a wider demographic.
“We are building for 100% of India and not just the top 1%,” said Radhakrishna in a telephone interview. “You may not be able to follow Elon Musk on Koo, but you can connect with Indians who speak and write in a variety of languages.”
Twitter declined to comment.
Founded just a year ago, Koo, whose logo of a yellow chick resembles Twitter’s blue and white bird, is a fraction of the size of Twitter. According to the analysis provider Sensor Tower, around 2.6 million installations were carried out in Indian app stores last year, compared with around 28 million installations for Twitter. Koo installs rose 901,000 from Feb. 6-11, according to Stephanie Chan, the company’s mobile insights strategist.
Twitter’s clash with the Indian government echoes controversial decisions in the US, including banning Donald Trump after rioting in Washington, DC. In India, the government urged the social media company to lock accounts over farmers’ protests against agricultural laws, government said contain misinformation and threats to national security.
Twitter resisted first and then complied with most orders, closing hundreds of accounts that the government reported. However, Twitter refused to ban others on the grounds of freedom of expression. Politicians like Goyal have urged supporters to go to Koo. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced that it will release exclusive updates for the app.
Even the country’s Supreme Court got involved. She has asked the government and Twitter to post on litigation on how to contain toxic content and fake news online. Any Twitter ban in India could affect user growth in a critical market.
Koo’s sudden rise has sparked privacy concerns over personal data collection and security issues as one of its investors is China’s Shunwei Capital. While Koo plans to buy out the Chinese venture company, Radhakrishna is mainly focused on building the ability to serve more users.
“We’re working really hard to make this more accessible to Indians,” he said.