Koo, India’s alternative to Twitter, has surged past 10 million users to narrow the gap with the US microblogging site after its repeated clashes with the local government over the past few months.
The 16-month-old app, which allows users to send tweet-like posts in English and seven Indian languages such as Hindi and Kannada, has recorded an increase of about 85 per cent user numbers since February, when Twitter’s disputes with the Modi administration escalated.
Government ministers, opposition politicians, cricketers and Bollywood celebrities have since begun posting in Indian languages on Koo.
Its San Francisco rival, which had 17.5 million monthly users earlier this year in India, complied with the new government rules this month after appointing new India-based executives, including one to handle compliance.
“We came into the limelight because of Twitter’s tension with the government, but users soon realised they can express in their mother tongue only on Koo,” said Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and chief executive of the Bengaluru-based app, whose formal name is Bombinate Technologies.
“Our app connects English-speaking India to non-English speaking India in a country with 700 million internet users and that’s powerful.”
Twitter has repeatedly clashed with the Indian government over content on its platform. In one example, Twitter at first resisted removing hundreds of posts critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, while labelling posts by ruling party officials as misleading. Police then visited its offices.
An India court ruled the company was in “total non-compliance” with the country’s new information technology rules.
Earlier this month, Twitter buckled and told the court that it would fully comply with the rules. That included naming an India-based point person to handle compliance and grievance issues.
Tussles between authorities and another social media company, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, over India’s new internet rules continue in the court.
Koo, which has benefitted from the controversies and from first-time internet users who post in local languages, is intends to have 100 million users within a year, said Ms Radhakrishna.
The start-up plans to expand across South-East Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe, into countries where English is not the dominant language.