Meet the man behind Indian social media platform Koo

Aprameya Radhakrishna (left) with Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder, Koo. Supplied photo
Aprameya Radhakrishna (left) with Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder, Koo. Supplied photo

Pune - Microblogging site has over 10 million users, aims to reach people of over 25 Indian languages



by

Nithin Belle

Published: Fri 8 Oct 2021, 12:25 PM

Last updated: Fri 8 Oct 2021, 12:39 PM

Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and CEO, is optimistic about the future of microblogging and social media platforms in native Indian languages

He is a self-confessed ‘day dreamer,’ who dreams of “a bright future for his native India”.

Meet Aprameya Radhakrishna, the co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Koo, a microblogging and social networking platform that enables Indians to express themselves in their own language.

At last count, Koo has over 10 million users, despite being the new kid on the microblogging block.

“Our aim is to make Koo the go-to micro-blogging platform for all Indians, especially those who prefer to communicate in their mother tongue,” Radhakrishna told Khaleej Times.

“Koo is available in seven Indian languages, and also in English. We aim to reach users of over 25 Indian languages. Our current base of more than 10 million users will grow exponentially,” he added.

Asked about his plans for the Arabian Gulf region, the entrepreneur remarked that “the UAE is lucrative given the huge Indian diaspora there”.

Once the Covid-19-related travel restrictions are lifted, he plans to touch base with the non-resident Indians (NRIs) in that country.

“The demand for engaging content in native Indian languages is on the rise and will further drive Koo’s growth,” Radhakrishna said. “We’ve users from almost 92 countries. Our data shows that the Indian diaspora from across the world is logging onto Koo in their native languages to connect with our own people back home,” he added.

Radhakrishna, a serial entrepreneur, is also an academic whiz-kid, who did his engineering at NIT Surathkal in Karnataka — he grew up in Bengaluru — and holds a postgraduate degree in business administration from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad.

Radhakrishna worked with property consultant, Jones Lang LaSalle, for a few years before embarking on his own entrepreneurial journey.

His first start-up was TaxiForSure, but once it started facing intense competition, he sold it for $200 (Dh735) million to Ola. “I’ve invested in over 35 start-ups such as Vogo, Yolo Bus, Open Bank, Unacademy and ThirdWave among others,” Radhakrishna said. “These are all ventures I believe can create a better future that we should all be a part of,” he added.

He co-founded Vokal in 2017 to cater to the millions who are not well-versed with English.

Vokal is a question & answer (Q&A) platform, as it answers queries and is used by hundreds of thousands of experts and ordinary folk. Vokal caters to a large need of answering questions of Indians in their mother tongue and in a format that users prefer, including audio and video.

“As India’s Internet penetration grows, so will the need for vernacular products,” Radhakrishna said.

“Vokal will keep growing its user base and the network effects that follow products used by so many users. We’ve barely scratched the surface with Indian languages. When we expand to multiple languages, we’ll be tapping into underserved markets with our product and expert creator base,” he added.

The entrepreneur pointed out that he saw an enormous gap in digital content creation in native languages in India. “The online space largely focused on English-speaking, urban Indians. In a country where more than 90 per cent of the population thinks and speaks in regional languages, the power of expression in your own language is immense. We studied existing products only to realise that Indian content is sparse, and an immersive language experience was required to get them to create the way English users do,” he added.

Though Koo’s development had started in December 2019, it was launched in March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic gripped India.

It was launched in Kannada language in Mandya district near Mysuru in Karnataka. The promising feedback boosted his confidence and led to the launch of the mobile application in Hindi.

In July 2020, Koo participated in the Aatmanirbhar App Challenge, an Indian government initiative to encourage entrepreneurs, and showcased a deeply immersive experience for Indians in their mother tongue. It won the competition in August. “We’re among the top three apps in social media platforms out of the 7,000 start-ups that participated in the challenge,” Radhakrishna said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Koo in the August 2020 edition of his Mann ki Baat programme on the state-run All India Radio (AIR).

Did he face any frustrating moments in his entrepreneurial journey? “Fortunately, I’ve not had such a moment,” he said. “Running start-ups is tough and requires multi-tasking, learning and unlearning at a rapid pace. Every entrepreneur goes through tough times. What helps is imagining a new future, and knowing that you’re shaping this every day helps you get over your lowest lows and keep going at a frenetic pace,” he added.

Twitter — the American microblogging website — is facing intense competition from Koo.

Twitter has over 17 million users in India, as compared to Koo’s more than 10 million.

- nithin@khaleejtimes.com


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