Blocking of 59 Chinese apps by the Indian government has given new wings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ or self-reliant India. And many entrepreneurs now see this as an opportunity to build apps for social media and entertainment.
Serial entrepreneur and noted angel investor Aprameya Radhakrishna has launched a Twitter-like microblogging platform Koo in which users can share text and multimedia updates. The app has gathered over 100k downloads on Google Play Store.
While the exact timeline of the launch of the app could not be ascertained, it looks like it has been live on Play Store for a few months. Users can share an opinion, or like and comment on a post. Koo is the second product from team Vokal and it’s available across 11 local languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Assamese.
The app is not available in English.
The application’s mission statement sets the record straight on its plan of action in India: “Almost 1 billion people in India don’t know English. Instead, they speak one of India’s 100s of languages. They are now getting access to smartphones and would love the internet in their language. Koo is an attempt to make the voice of these Indians heard”.
Koo’s user interface is simple and intuitive and it goes well with first-time internet users. The app appears to have drawn inspiration from Twitter but its navigation and usability are designed with keeping the vernacular speaking audience in centre.
According to Radhakrishna, the app has seen a hockey stick curve in terms of downloads in the past five days. The resentment against Chinese apps and blocking of 59 apps linked to China seems to have triggered the spurt in downloads and usage.
It’s worth noting that Vokal, founded by Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, hasn’t been able to grow as compared to ShareChat, Pratilipi and the Bytedance app ecosystem in India. According to Sensor Tower, Vokal has managed to amass 1.4 million downloads between January and June this year.
A user-generated content platform, Vokal allows users to question and answer by means of voice or text. The platform aims to reach out to a non-English speaking population in India and do what Zhihu, a highly successful Quora-like Q&A platform in China, has done.
With the blocking of the popular Chinese apps in the content and entertainment space like TikTok, Kwai and Helo, local peers such as ShareChat, Roposo and Vokal via Koo and many others are likely to reap the benefit. But what happens if and when India’s government allows the Chinese apps to function?