All big and successful ventures have humble beginnings and none other than Infosys can vouch for this. And, proponents say, there’s another one in the making. The homegrown social media app Koo was born inside a small office in Bengaluru’s Jayanagar, just like how Infosys took baby steps from a garage of its founder NR Narayana Murthy’s house in the same locality.
On a wintery evening in November 2019, there was some serious discussion between IIM-A management graduate Aprameya Radhakrishna and his colleague B Mayank over developing a non-English app for an “expression and exchange of ideas platform”. This was an extension to the existing voice app called Vocal developed by the duo who own Bombinate Technologies.
The idea that germinated at this small office in Jayanagar took four months to take shape, and in March 2020, Kannada’s first opinion sharing platform Koo – the desi version of a Twitter model – was launched in a small way. Initially, personal invitations were sent out by Aprameya to a select group of people including journalists to come on board. During the Covid lockdown, the app was downloaded and was used extensively.
And the rest is history. From Kannada, Koo got developed into seven Indian languages and English. And today, it is recognised by the union government to be used for dissemination of information and communication by all its departments. Koo has also won the Prime Minister’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge. With over four million downloads, Koo is ramping up to hit the next landmark.
A true blue Kannadiga and Bengaluru boy, Aprameya’s early schooling happened in Sri Kumaran’s School, and college at MES. He then got his engineering degree from NIT Surathkal and MBA from IIM-A. His first successful venture was TaxiForSure which he subsequently sold to Ola.
“After selling TaxiForSure, I was discussing what all are the next waves on the internet. Searching for info, connecting with other people, expression was only in the English domain and people who do not know the language were not able to do it. They were just forced to become consumers without expressing themselves. We (Karnataka) are a state of 70 million people with varied and interesting opinions on various subjects. However, we’ve never been able to express ourselves openly because most social platforms are in English. Our multilingual voice app Vocal was the answer to this and we had 25 million users,’’ explains 39-year-old Aprameya.
However, the next challenge was why not expression, why just voice? And so in November 2019, there was an app in the making for a larger communication module and Koo was the answer which got people into language expression. “Last week we welcomed a lot of government bodies who are posting first on Koo. The growth has been immense and we had to quickly ramp up. The momentum is great and users are loving it,” he says.
So why ‘Koo’? “It’s a bird’s call – like ‘Koyal si teri boli, koo koo koo koo’,’’ signs off Aprameya.