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Koo the second-largest microblog making strong headway

On Monday, November 21, Koo announced its launch in Brazil, and within 48 hours, the multilingual microblogging platform recorded over 1 million app downloads. Koo has occupied the #1 spot on both the Android Play Store and Apple App Store for the last few days.

The company, in a statement, said that Koo looks to further cement its position globally by making the app available to more countries and launching in multiple global languages.

The question, however, is: Can Koo emerge as an alternative to Twitter, which remains one of the most used and popular microblogging platforms? More so now, given the chaos at the Elon Musk-owned company.

Let’s begin by looking at the numbers.

Twitter’s global user base is 396.5 million. Of this, the platform had 237.8 million average monetisable daily active usage (mDAU) – a growth of 16.6 per cent at the end of the second quarter (till June 30, 2022). The company defines mDAU as people, organisations, or other accounts that logged in or were otherwise authenticated and who accessed Twitter on any given day through twitter.com, Twitter applications that are able to show ads, or paid Twitter products, including subscriptions.

Koo, meanwhile, hit 50 million downloads recently. However, it still has only 10 million monthly daily users. In Brazil, which Koo claims saw huge and instant adoption, Twitter’s base is 19.05 million, according to Statista.

When it comes to revenue, too, all competition trails far behind Twitter, which, despite a 27 per cent decrease year-on-year, saw advertising revenue grow 2 per cent to $1.08 billion while subscription and other revenue totalled $101 million in the second quarter ended June 30.

So far, Koo has not tapped into advertisements and also does not charge users. The company has said it is working on a monetisation plan for India, which will be a first for it.

Of course, Koo was launched only in 2020 – Twitter was born in 2006 – and until recently, it has been purely India-focused. In an interaction with Business Standard recently, Koo Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Aprameya Radhakrishna said that so far, Koo’s growth has been entirely organic and it has positioned itself as a multilingual platform.

“Within 2.5 years of its launch, Koo is the second-largest microblog available to the world today. Koo prides itself on its proprietary feature called Multi-Language Kooing, which allows users to post simultaneously in more than 10 different languages, with nearly 90 more coming soon,” Radhakrishna said. “The most immediate addition is Portuguese amid an influx of millions of new users in Brazil who moved to Koo within two days of its launch.”

He added that the Koo app was built to an international standard, “and has plans to expand globally.

Brazil’s overwhelming support is a testimony that we are solving a problem for native language speaking users not only in India but also across the world”.

Asked what gave him the confidence that they could be an alternative to Twitter, Radhakrishna said, “Koo competes with global micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, GETTR, Mastodon and Parler and stands second (after Twitter) in terms of user downloads.”

According to an article on Statista (“Twitter and the Alternatives”), only 3.6 million people actively participate in Mastodon, which was founded in 2016, though media reports suggested there were 70,000 new account registrations for it on the day after Musk’s takeover announcement. There’s also Tumblr (founded in 2007), which has 135 million active accounts.

Radhakrishna is of the view that Koo is poised to have new users flocking the platform because “there are no gimmicks, no confusing code to navigate, and no hidden fees of any kind”.

“Let’s be honest. People don’t come to Twitter looking for far-leaning beliefs forced on them or to Mastodon looking for a completely different experience than they’re used to,” he said. “They use these platforms to engage with the community they’ve built and want to continue building. That’s what we’re offering with Koo, but significantly better, of course.”

That said, what differentiates Twitter is the conversation it manages to have and the sizeable presence of heavyweights on the site: politicians, celebrities, entrepreneurs, influencers….

Koo, currently, has over 7,500 recognisable personalities, including celebs such as Anupam Kher, Karan Johar, Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor. Also on the platform are some political leaders and ministries, including Ashwini Vaishnaw, Piyush Goyal, Yogi Adityanath, Arjun Munda, Kamal Nath, Mansukh Mandaviya, ministries of home affairs and tribal affairs, among others. Some, like Kher and Johar, now have 450K+ followers on the site.

In Brazil, influencers such as Claudia Leitte, actor Babu Santana, author Rosana Hermann and YouTuber Felipe Neto are among those who have taken to Koo.

When Business Standard asked him if he saw Koo as a potential alternative if Twitter failed, Manish Maheshwari, former India head of Twitter, had replied with “yes”. “Frankly, from the functionality part, most of the apps in the space are similar; even Koo can be the next Twitter,” he had said. “But what differentiates (them from one another) is the people associated with the platform and the people using it.”

He has a point. No one, for instance, expected platforms such as Orkut and Myspace to fall out of favour with users. Or for that matter, that users would flock to TikTok (banned in India since June 2020) more than to Facebook.

“Koo has all the right kinds of people on its platform. If there is no clarity on Twitter and there is no help and support, and people do not see engagement, they will start moving away,” Maheshwari said. Business Standard

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