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Koo founder: All for freedom of speech but will first follow law of the land

Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder of Koo, which is benefitting from Twitter’s row with the Indian government, says his microblogging site will bring together English and non-English speaking users.

February 10, 2021 / 10:40 PM IST

The founder of Koo, the buzzy, homegrown micro-blogging site, to which several Union ministers flocked after the government’s intense row with Twitter, said his platform is all for freedom of speech but will follow law of the land.

"We are built for freedom of speech. Our primary goal is to make sure that everybody who is in India has the right to express themselves.," Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and chief executive officer of Koo, told Moneycontrol in an interview.

“While that happens of course there will be exceptions like a threat to life. Like one person inciting violence or threatening to take his own life. So being a company registered in India, we will abide by the law of the land,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNBC TV18, he also confirmed that Chinese investor Shunwei is exiting the venture.

Twitter has found itself in a fierce tangle with Indian authorities, who want it to take down more than 1,100 accounts and posts that the government argues are spreading misinformation about the farmers’ protests against new agricultural laws. Many of the accounts are backed by Pakistan or are operated by supporters of a separatist Sikh movement, according to the government.

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On Wednesday, the US social media giant said it would not fully comply with orders from the government, arguing that it does not believe the orders are consistent with Indian law.

Koo is the apparent primary beneficiary of this standoff. The government took to the platform to respond to Twitter over the ongoing tussle. Earlier, several Union ministers had opened accounts on Koo.

What is Koo?

Founded in March 2020 by Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, Koo can be used to express views and opinions on various topics much like Twitter. Growth was fuelled soon after it won AatmaNirbhar App Innovation Challenge held by the government in August 2020. The app claims to be having around 3 million downloads.

Koo is now having a moment thanks to the Twitter row.

Radhakrishna, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, said for the past couple of days there has been a lot of attention for us from Twitter users. “In the past 10 months of our journey, we have had people from all parts. But in the past 48 hours, quite a few English-speaking users have joined the platform,” said Radhakrishna, who sold his first venture TaxiForSure to Softbank-backed rival Ola for around $200 million.

On how Koo will be different from Twitter, Radhakrishna said that the company is focussing on Indian languages. "International products will always launch an English first platform which will not give a great experience for the Indian language users. Our aim is to get the voice of India who are not comfortable with English along with the people who are comfortable with English on one platform.

Koo has made it easier for users to create and type in Indian languages and also enabled voice and video, he said. “So in case you don't want to type and just want to take a short video or an audio snippet, we have enabled that," he said.

The app supports multiple Indian regional languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya and Assamese. Users can share posts, audio, video, photos on the platform. Like Twitter, Koo also allows users to chat with each other via DMs.

A Twitter Substitute?

Can Koo replace Twitter in India? "If you want to connect with the international community that's not what we are focusing on today. We want to go deeper in India. We will solve that first and when we solve that then we will go to other locations across the world," he said.

Koo counts investors such as Infosys veteran Mohandas Pai’s 3one4 Capital, Kalaari Capital and Blume Ventures among others on its cap table. It has raised around $4.1 million so far.
Priyanka Sahay
first published: Feb 10, 2021 04:43 pm

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