Govt responds to Twitter blogpost — on homegrown app Koo

AFTER TWITTER put out its blogpost on Wednesday, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s first response was on Koo, a homegrown microblogging platform.

In a koo – term for a post on the platform – the ministry said the IT Secretary was to “engage with” senior officials of Twitter, “upon the request of Twitter” and a blogpost “prior to this engagement is unusual”.

More than half-an-hour later, the ministry tweeted the same text from its official Twitter handle.

The Centre’s concerted push for the year-old Koo app, at a time when it is embroiled in a kerfuffle with Twitter, has industry insiders suggesting that the government is putting its weight behind a local alternative. Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and several government departments have joined Koo amid the government-Twitter row.

The app’s co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna told The Indian Express that the app witnessed an unexpected surge in downloads and that nearly half of its 3 million downloads have happened in the past 30-40 days. On Wednesday, the app also witnessed crashes due to the high loads. “We are doing our best to stabilise Koo App platform. Due to unprecedented demand, our servers are not able to handle all the load, and we are working 24/7 to add more servers. Our priority is to use India-based servers only,” the app’s official account posted on Twitter.

While Law & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was among the few prominent personalities to have joined Koo in August 2020, when it won the AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge, a clutch of government departments and senior government officials joined the platform this month, according to information displayed on their individual Koo pages. These include the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, India Post, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, Niti Aayog, and several IT ministry divisions like Digital India, Electronics India, Common Service Centre etc.

Among others on Koo are MP Tejasvi Surya, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, Isha Foundation’s Sadhguru, former cricketers Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble. Actor Anupam Kher joined the app on Wednesday.

Run by Bengaluru-based Bombinate Technologies Pvt Ltd, Koo was released on Google Play Store in November 2019, and was launched to the public in early 2020. In August last year, it was among the winners of the AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge, which the government announced soon after banning a score of mobile apps with Chinese links.

Bombinate Technologies also runs Vokal, a local version of the popular online question-and-answer platform Quora. According to data sourced from Crunchbase, the company has raised funding from investors like Blume Ventures, Kalaari Capital, Accel India and others. Among its investors is Chinese venture capital firm Shunwei Capital but it was in process of selling its stake in the company.

“Koo is an Indian registered company with Indian founders. Raised capital two-and-a-half years ago. Latest funds for Bombinate Technologies is led by a truly Indian investor 3one4 Capital. Shunwei (single digit shareholder) which had invested in our Vokal journey will be exiting fully,” the CEO said.

Koo was co-founded by entrepreneurs Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidwatka. The former had earlier founded online cab booking service TaxiForSure, which was later sold to Ola Cabs.

In the latest round of funding announced earlier this month, Bombinate Technologies raised funding from existing investors and added a new name — former Infosys CFO TV Mohandas Pai’s 3one4 Capital – to the list.

The government’s attempt to push a Made-in-India social networking app is in line with certain quarters across the world looking for an alternative to Twitter.

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