[Product Roadmap] Despite the pandemic, how Koo was able to onboard over 10M users

In this week’s Product Roadmap, we feature Koo, the Indian language microblogging platform, that has touched over 10 million users and is still expanding its user base.
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Ten days into the lockdown in March 2020, Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka launched Koo App, a microblogging platform for Indian languages that is an offshoot of their user-generated content platform Vokal. The focus of Koo was simple: create a micro-blogging platform that can help people communicate in a language they are comfortable in. 

The duo believed that while San Francisco-based micro-blogging site Twitter boasts of over 330 million users worldwide, only a fraction of 70 million Kannada speakers would be tweeting in their native language on the social platform.  

This created a gap in India, which has several regional languages, and locals prefer to exchange their views in their native languages rather than in English. 

Initially, the founders had built a button on the Vokal app itself. Having realised that Vokal was built in a Q&A format like that of Quora, with videos and voices, the founders decided to develop an app where users can converse in their regional languages. 

Mayank Bidawatka and Apramaya R

What does it do?

“Koo is creating a micro-blogging experience that can be relevant to a larger percentage of people in India, given that micro-blogging is fairly under-penetrated here. That's because of the language divide. 90 percent of the country doesn't speak English and converses in thousands of regional languages,” Mayank tells YourStory

Users can either convey their thoughts in 400 characters of text, or one-minute short audio or video ‘Koos’. It also features people’s feeds, one-on-one messaging, English to regional language keyboard, language news feeds, and hyperlocal hashtags. 

“To take micro-blogging to the masses, Koo has created immersive product experiences that enable micro-blogging for everyone in the most inclusive way possible,” adds Mayank. 

He explains: 

  1. A user gets to select the language of their preference as soon as they download the app. All the instructions on the app are then provided in that language, making it easy for a user to understand what they can do.
  2. The Koos can be created in the target language of the user. A transliteration functionality can enable users to communicate in their selected languages even if they type in English.
  3. A list of creators is shown to all users, making it easy for them to follow people and start seeing content in their feed. This makes it easy for regional language users to discover people.

How is Kooing different from Tweeting?

“Just like this, we have built many experiences that are unique to India and regional language speakers. In terms of the community, most of our users are not on Twitter. For them, this is their first experience on a microblogging platform. Our English community does have an overlap with Twitter and is seeing great traction as well. Many of the creators get a higher number of followers and reactions that they do on Twitter because of the unique experiences built into the product,” says Mayank. 

According to Mayank, unlike other social media platforms, Koo allows the influencers to touch base with their local community where they can have conversations with their fans on topics of mutual interest. 

“The kind of people on the platform are authors, poets, journalists, and politicians, who want to touch base with the right community on different ideas and trends,” he adds.

Most of the conversations on the Koo app revolve around daily thoughts, events, and news trends within the communities. The app has all content moderation policies in place, where people can be unfollowed and blocked, content can be blocked, and comments can be blocked or hidden as well. 

Creating an immersive language experience

Mayank explains that the platform has an immersive language experience. He adds that Koo has been focused on people being able to express themselves in a language they are comfortable with. 

“The reasons why celebrities come on the platform is because this is where the users are present. A lot of celebrities who came on the platform early on started getting a lot more reactions, followers. There are few language users on Twitter, the platform’s dominant language is English,” explains Mayank. 

He explains the team also worked on discovery. For example, Koo has a people feed that shows different carousels, which helps in the discovery of people. For example, if an Indian language journalist starts ‘Kooing’ on the platform, there will be a journalist carousel in the language that shows that particular celebrity.

“This means that if a person is more active, the algorithm will showcase the user, giving them followers, and getting more reactions,” says Mayank. This means better engagement, this creates better stickiness. 

Multi-language feeds 

The community also has tools that can report the content in different sub-sections. Mayank adds they have also got tech that identifies negative content. For example, they follow a dictionary to identify problematic content pieces, and the team then goes through these and moderates the content. The machine highlights the problematic content. 

The challenges, however, were primarily from the perspective of building a product during a lockdown. 

“We built everything during the lockdown, and got engineers on calls and Google Meets. It did have its challenges, and sometimes we feel that if we were in office, we would have built this 5x faster,” adds Mayank. Different teams, including the backend, Android, iOS teams, needed to coordinate. 

The team is now working on building multi-language feeds. The users can ‘Koo’ on multiple languages on a single screen. Unlike other platforms, once users have typed their message on Koo, they can just hit the Translate button and get the text translated in other languages. 

“This means there are multiple language communities all at once,” says Mayank. 


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Edited by Kanishk Singh