Koo, touted by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and used enthusiastically by several officials and ministries in his government, has been downloaded 3.3 million times so far this year, per app analytics firm Sensor Tower. It’s a promising start for a company founded less than a year ago, but less than Twitter’s 4.2 million Indian downloads during the same period.
However, the Indian social network, which sports a bird logo familiar to any Twitter user, was downloaded more times than Twitter in the month of February — when the Indian governmentcalled out the US company for not doing enough to block accounts sharing what it called “incendiary and baseless” hashtags around a protest by farmers against new agricultural laws.
“We’re building as fast as we can,” Bidawatka said.
Over the past couple of years, the Modi government has ratcheted up its pressure on global tech companies. It recently imposed stringent restrictionson the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and reportedlythreatened their employees with jail time, less than a year after banning dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat.
Against that backdrop, homegrown alternatives to many of those services have cropped up to try to take advantage of a burgeoning techno-nationalism — and some, like Koo, are quickly gaining traction. The two most downloaded apps in India so far in 2021 are TikTok-esque short video platforms MX Taka Tak and Moj, ahead of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Bidawatka praised Twitter’s service and said the government backlash against it and other tech platforms is “unfortunate.” But he doesn’t deny that the government’s clash with Twitter has given Koo and other Indian apps a boost, adding that local apps have a better understanding of the market and can step in where big global tech firms fall short.
“A lot of the global tech giants have India as a part of their roadmap as far as growth is concerned, but they’re also a little worried about making big changes to a very stable global product to cater to a market like that,” he said. “We have the talent, we have the resources, some of us have the experience, there’s funding available for fulfilling dreams like these. And these are pretty large dreams, we’re talking about creating products that are very relevant to the second largest internet population in the world.
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