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Much-hyped social network platform by Orkut’s founder fails to take off 

Building a social network with substantial scale in any part of the world appears to be extremely difficult today. It seems undoable, and the reason is simple – Facebook. Several attempts in the past 10 years to bring a fresh flavour in social networking space have failed miserably. 

Even Google has failed twice in the past 15 years. It had discontinued two products – Orkut and Google+ as both failed to remain relevant among users. While Google is reportedly working on another social network – Shoelace to supercharge your social life, its investment in Hello seems to have turned south on the lines of its previous failures.

Do you remember Hello? A brainchild of Orkut’s founder – Orkut Buyukkokten. 

When Orkut launched Hello in India last year, it was able to grab decent space across all mainstream newspapers as well as technology-focused media websites. The timing for launching Hello in India was perfect as Facebook was mired in Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

At the time of launch, Buyukkokten emphasised that social media has isolated people instead of bringing them closer. “We need a fresh start. Hello is built around interest-based communities where users with same interests can connect, leading to true connections,” he said.

Buyukkokten’s dream to build another social network seems to have hit the wall as Hello has been struggling to find takers in India as well as elsewhere – Brazil, France, the US.

Three years and 16 months after Hello’s global and India launch, respectively, how big is its DAU/MAU base? Also, what’s its retention and engagement rate?

On the Google play store, the app boasts more than 1 million downloads to date. 

According to data provided by Sensor Tower, Hello network merely got 10,000 and 5,000 downloads in July on Android and iOS respectively. 

Google trends also showed the difference in usage when compared with ShareChat, a regional social networking platform. In the comparative figures, Sharechat usage saw a rise whereas Hello usage remain plain for the last 12 months.

Source: Google Trends

These numbers are entirely inconsequential in the social networking space, and the company poses no challenge to anyone. Not even to Bharat-focused social networks – Bytedance-owned Helo and ShareChat, let alone being the next social evolution.

Hello finds no place in the top 20 social apps neither in India nor Brazil. 

To verify the reasons for low engagement, Entrackr browsed through the app and spoke to about over a dozen users. The platform has about 5,100 live communities in India, and one can join based on their interest. We tried joining a few communities such as Entrepreneurs, Orkut India, Online dating and a few others. 

In a community called Orkut India, which had close to 239 members at the time of joining, we asked for some suggestions about the app. Out of six, we got the responses of two that too after two days. Rest four did not respond.

While the entry for new users seems hassle-free in the communities, the conversation and responses have hardly anything unique to it. Looking at the previous threads of communication in the community, a user gets a fair idea about how infrequent or once in while kind of conversation takes place at the platform. 

That is not all. For the first time user, the process to open an account is also a bit complex.

“Creating an account is a bit lengthy process, and what adds to the woes, you cannot create a profile without uploading his or her photograph,” said Sneha Roy, who is doing masters from Delhi School of Economics. 

Design and user experience are pretty ordinary. Besides, there are less unique features for app users. “I can easily connect with the people of my genre on other apps like LinkedIn. I don’t find any unique feature/ reason to use this app, said Anushka Durga,” highlighted a Delhi based executive in a research firm.

Most of the users whom Entrackr spoke to acknowledged that it is difficult for someone, who has been using, Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, to adjust to Hello. 

This brings us closer to the next logical question- what would be the future of Hello? Will Hello also meet Orkut fate? 

Most probably – yes, until it does something drastically unique to attract and engage users on the platform. Buyukkokten, in his first stint with Orkut, managed to gain about 300 million active users on its platform.

However, soon, it lost out to Facebook, in the battle of keeping users engaged. 

Facebook, after the first year of its launch, had over 6 million users in 2005. Hello is nowhere in the scene to match even Facebook’s 14-years-old growth rate with its just over 1 million users in 2019.

At a time when the number of internet users has grown drastically, the current number suggests a dismal or remote chance for Hello to be successful. 

Entrackr detailed queries sent to Hello last week remain unanswered till the publication of this post. We will update the post if the company responds. 

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