To Tweet, Or To Koo? That Is The Question
Fortune India|April 2021
Home-grown microblogging platform Koo—which provides non English speakers a platform to express themselves—is the flavour of the season. But will it prove to be a viable alternative to Big Tech and other domestic platforms?
Arnav Das Sharma

Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka need a break. Life has been very busy for the two co-founders of Koo since the middle of February. Launched in March 2020, Koo, a vernacular-focussed microblogging platform on the lines of Twitter—which is funded by venture capital heavyweights like former Infosys CFO T.V. Mohandas Pai’s 3one4 Capital and Kalaari Capital, among others—took off in February thanks to a tussle between Twitter and the Indian government. The government had wanted the microblogging giant to block certain accounts, which the latter had initially refused to comply with.

Since then, many high-profile ministers tweeted that they have logged in on Koo, a microblogging platform which lets users choose from a wide array of Indian languages. This has led to an over 20-fold rise in daily users, the latest estimates say.

If that wasn’t enough to keep the co-founders busy, they’ve had to deal with alleged privacy issues (which they have since denied) and criticism that one of the investors in the parent company, Bombinate Technologies, was China-based Shunwei Capital. Finally, in mid-March, Shunwei sold its minority stake, which was acquired by former Indian cricketer Javagal Srinath, BookMyShow founder Ashish Hemrajani, Udaan co-founder Sujeet Kumar, Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, and Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath, among others.

Amid all this, what comes forth is the unassuming nature of the co-founders. “We are both very middle-class people,” Bidawatka, 40, tells Fortune India. Their partnership dates back to the early 2010s. Then, Radhakrishna used to run his car rental aggregator, TaxiForSure, which was acquired by Ola in 2015, while Bidawatka was a part of The Media Ant, a media discovery and buying platform he founded after he left online bus ticketing platform redBus.

“After two and half years of me running TaxiForSure, we were looking to scale up,” says Radhakrishna, 39. Because he wanted to scale up, Radhakrishna needed someone who had experience running his own business. “We hit it off right away and I wanted Mayank in,” he recalls.

Koo’s genesis happened after Radhakrishna exited TaxiForSure. After his departure in 2015, he got some funding and began to experiment. Around the same time, Bidawatka co-founded Goodbox, a Bengaluru-based e-commerce platform that connected small businesses with consumers. They kept in touch and frequently exchanged ideas. “We kept experimenting,” says Radhakrishna. Out of these experiments was born Vokal, a vernacular-focussed question-and-answer app on the lines of Quora.

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