In vernacular languages, we are way larger than Twitter: KOO CEO

Started in March 2020, Koo, the Indian rival of Twitter, has already acquired 30 million users and around 7-8 million monthly active users. Nearly 80 per cent of its users interact in vernacular languages, including Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati. In an interview with BusinessLine, Co-founder and CEO, Aprameya Radhakrishna, takes us through his business strategies, features and upcoming offerings on the micro-blogging site.

Koo recently opened up the verification green tick option for all users, a feature which would be a sign of exclusivity on other social media platforms. What are your thoughts on that? What kind of traction have you seen from users applying for this feature?

It’s a very recent feature, we have not checked the numbers yet. But for eminence verification, we have a separate yellow tick for famous people, who are searched multiple times. Another problem associated with social media is bots and trolls – we wanted to be governed by the right ways of running this platform. Anyone would give more importance to a platform used by real people than a bot. We have enabled the users to say they are real and the comments shared are their own.

I think Green tick is an important aspect of how safe and how real a social media platform is. This is a voluntary feature.

Koo was also in the final stages of setting up its self-governing body for content moderation. Have you finalized the panel?

We have not yet finalized the panel. Our idea in creating a panel is to handle sensitive cases which tend to divide opinion. While half of the population would say it’s freedom of speech, the other half will call it hate speech – but as a platform, we have to be neutral. In those cases, having an advisory board of eminent people from different aspects of Indian life is important. We are working on it and it’s not an easy board to put together. We also have to ensure all sorts of people and voices are heard, and there is empathy for most cases.

We would like a panel of nine or 11 people, but might even start with five, if we have people from across society. They will work with us on a case-by-case basis and not full time, and help us depending on our requests. We have reached out to former bureaucrats, the judiciary, NGOs, and business people, to join the board.

Given that most people already use Twitter, how do you expand the network and create consumer behavior for Koo? How do you build an entire ecosystem?

Unlike messaging apps such as WhatsApp, where communication happens one-on-one, the shift in consumer behavior happens much better in an open network. Firstly, we are going after a network that does not exist on the other platform. The purpose in coming to Koo is very different from tweeting for English users. Koo is creating a network for non-English users for the first time. As long as we keep accelerating it, we will be the first movers for language speakers. For English speakers, we might look to be the second mover after Twitter, but going by the purpose, we are the first mover for that use case.

As an Indian, if you want to connect with speakers of local vernacular languages ​​on Koo, you can type in English and find an option of whether you want to connect with other communities. We auto translate the post for you based on the language you choose, which you can then edit and share.

A key differentiator for Koo has been vernacular languages, which Twitter has also been expanding on. How does Koo strategize to continue to differentiate?

Their might and size is in English language. In vernacular languages, we are way larger than them.

Koo is a late entrant into a market where Big Tech like Twitter is still struggling to build a solid revenue model. How does Koo assess monetization on the platform?

We are currently focused on growth and capturing the market. Monetization will happen once that is in place. There are enough case studies of US and Chinese apps making money, the main focus is on capturing the market.

Are there any innovations and moon-shot ideas the company is working on? Any interesting offerings and features we can expect in the short term?

We already have chat rooms and are experimenting with video-first expressions of thoughts and opinions. All of that has gone live for a few users, and will be rolled out to others soon. Wider media cards, too, have been launched.

Will you be open to features such as NFTs and cryptos, similar to Twitter Blue?

Decentralized and inclusivity of user and creator is what Web 3 is about. We are very pro and as a young company, we have the ability to include users and creators in our journey much better than anyone else. Will we go full hog on Web 3 or introduce Web 3 concepts in Web 2 — those are things we are forever thinking about. But I think we are leaning towards bringing in the positive ideas of Web 3 like sharing revenue with creators and users on our platform for sure. Other aspects of Web 3 are still being experimented so we do not want to commit to a totally decentralized DAO etc. Those are a little more long term.

Published on

May 04, 2022

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