That’s certainly the goal, according to co-founder Mayank Bidawatka, who says Koo expects to surpass Twitter’s 25 million-strong user base in India this year. It had touched 20 million downloads in India by the end of 2021.
“We are now available in 10 languages, including English. This year we’d like to cover all of India’s 22 official languages,” he told the BBC at the company’s headquarters in the southern city of Bangalore, a tech hub.
Bidawatka and his partner also run Vokal, a knowledge-sharing platform in Indian languages. Since last year, Koo has attracted cricketers and Bollywood stars – and it expects the number of “eminent accounts”, which now number 5,000, to triple by the end of the year. But it’s also accused of amplifying government propaganda and letting anti-Muslim hate speech go unchecked.
Social media has become yet another battleground in a sharply polarised India – and the supporters of the Hindu nationalist BJP have long been accused of relentlessly trolling those who are seen as critical or opposed to Mr Modi. Koo’s guidelines explicitly prohibit hate speech and discriminatory or offensive content. He also notes that global big tech, governed by policies around data and security “will find it increasingly difficult to grow in India.”
Koo has a fair shot at success, he believes, if it can solve the issue of how best to moderate content, while creating a safe space for users, which Twitter has long struggled with.
But it will need to make a more concerted effort to attract users with a diversity of political views. As of now, liberal or anti-establishment voices might be disinclined to leave Twitter or have an account on both platforms.
The article first appeared on BBC.