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Koo co-founder Mayank Bidawatka on breaking the language barrier for social media users

The home-grown app recently unveiled its first major Television campaign

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Mumbai: Having launched at the outset of the pandemic, home-grown multi-lingual micro-blogging platform, Koo has already garnered over fifteen million users in a short span of twenty months. Pitched as India’s alternative to the US microblogging platform Twitter, the app allows its users to express themselves in their mother tongue, providing its offerings across regional languages.

“We looked at the existing products and saw there was no platform to openly express oneself in Indian languages,” said co-founder Mayank Bidawatka, an alumnus from the Asian Institute of Management. “That’s when we realised that there’s a very large market out there waiting to be unleashed.”

The brainchild of founders Mayank Bidawatka and Aprameya Radhakrishna, the home-grown app has added five million users in the last quarter. The Bengaluru-based app currently supports nine Indian languages, namely, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, Marathi, Bangla, Gujarati and English, and is in the process of adding three more.

But, before Koo, the duo had co-founded Vokal- an expert-based Q & A platform in regional languages, an Indian version of Quora. “That time we got a lot of feedback from experts who felt that they were just answering questions that people asked. But, they also wanted to use an open expression platform where they could also share their thoughts freely,” said Bidawatka in an exclusive interview with Indiatelevision.com.

It is this thought that also forms the core of its first-ever Television campaign Koo Kiya Kya?’ launched during the recently concluded T20 World Cup 2021. Conceptualised by Ogilvy India, the campaign consisted of a series of short-format twenty-second advertisements that delve on the comfort of expressing oneself in one’s native tongue.

Talking about the objective behind the brand’s latest campaign, Bidawatka said, “To get all the people who are passive creators to become active creators, it was important for them to know what Koo’s about. With this campaign we are trying to drive the thought that ‘if you have anything on your mind, come and say it on Koo’. Hence the line ‘Dil mein jo bhi ho, Koo pe kaho’. Coupled with the slogan ‘Koo kiya kya’ that’s the broad concept behind the campaign.”

The brand also made a conscious decision not to have a celebrity endorse the campaign. “It needs to cater to the masses. Hence we used common people in the ads to show that anyone could be creating- You don’t need to be a celeb or big guy to create,” said the co-founder.

The start-up largely depended on online penetration in its initial phase of outreach, but going ahead it plans to make use of both mainstream media as well as digital media in equal measures. “Both of these are important for different reasons. Digital helps us to drive downloads, and mass media aids in creating brand awareness,” he added.

Building awareness was also top-of-the-mind when the brand decided to use Cricket as a launch-pad for its maiden campaign. “The T20 tournament is one of the most viewed properties of the country, plus if you want mass awareness, it’s one f the best properties to advertise in,” he said.

When asked about the consumer demographic the platform currently caters to Bidawatka said, “We have people across genders, age-groups, across cities and tier two towns. This product is made for the country at large where people find their topics of interest, their people of interest. Also it’s relatively simple to use.”

With the growing menace of hate speech on social media becoming a challenge for social media platforms, Bidwatka said, Koo is working on a feature that allows users to self-verify. “This way we’ll know we aren’t dealing with a fake account or someone who’s masked,” he signed off.

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