Benita Chacko
Social Media

“Want to go from noun to verb”: Koo co-founder Mayank Bidawatka

The homegrown microblogging social media app, a challenger to Twitter, is out with its first TV campaign 'Koo Kiya Kya'.

Koo, a homegrown multi-language micro-blogging platform, launched its first-ever television campaign ‘Koo Kiya Kya’ last week urging people to express themselves in their mother tongue on the app.

Created by Ogilvy, the campaign was launched at the start of the T20 World Cup 2021 and consists of a series of short-format 20 second advertisements that ends with the question #KooKiyaKya. The ads are woven around the message - Ab Dil Mein Jo Bhi Ho, Koo Pe Kaho.

In an interview with afaqs!, Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder of Koo, said through the TVC they’re trying to accelerate its journey from being a noun to becoming a verb.

“Want to go from noun to verb”: Koo co-founder Mayank Bidawatka

“That’s the journey every brand wants to make- from being a noun to becoming a verb. Like Google it or Uber it. Koo being the name of a brand, is a noun. When we say ‘Koo kiya kya?’ it becomes a verb. We want to create an offline habit, where every time someone says something smart, the others ask ‘Koo kiya kya?’ If you say it out to the world, you could have a lot more followers and reactions,” he said.

On Koo, if you're a creator you can express yourself in your preferred language and if you're a user you can connect with people that speak the same language. “So when you say ‘Koo Kiya Kya’ to a creator it means ‘have you expressed yourself?’ but to a user it means ‘Have you connected with people like yourself in your language?’ So the phrase means different things to different people.

Through this campaign the brand chooses to speak to the creators first urging them to express themselves on the platform. It targets language users, mainly in Hindi.

Koo’s language proposition sets it apart from its competitors as it allows users to express themselves in their own language and also allows them to connect with people who speak the same language.

“Most of the global platforms we use assume that everyone speaks in English. In India, there is no platform for the non-English speaking population to express themselves. This makes it difficult to express yourself in the choice of your language. Also you can only find people that you know by searching for their names. On Koo we make it easy for people to connect with others who speak the same language,” he adds.

Founded by Apremeya Radhakrishna and Bidawatka last year, the app's user base touched about 15 million last week, with five million users being added just in the last quarter. Who were these early adopters?

The average age of users is between 23 to 35 years. These are not first-time internet users, but language-users who didn’t have a platform to express themselves earlier. While they have users from across the country, a large majority comes from the Hindi belt.

“We cater to folks that have a preference for a regional language. And there are a billion people like that, of which 400-500 million people are on the internet. So this is a sub-segment of those users,” Bidawatka says.

The platform targets to have 100 million users by 2022. “These people will be existing internet users who have a preference for the language. We also have partnerships where we can target first time internet users,” Bidawatka adds.

With this they have intensified their marketing initiatives. They have planned more partnerships and have started above the line advertising. They have started with television and soon plan to advertise on the radio as well. Bidawatka said that these networks also depend a lot on the VIPs joining it. So how are these influencers coming onto their platform?

“It's all about where you are in the journey. On day one, nobody will join. On day 100, maybe a few people will join because they believe in us. We're trying to reach out to some of them. When one person joins, five people that he knows might join. A lot of celebrities who want to promote a Made-in-India app and want to see it do well globally will want to associate with us,” he explained.

Currently the medium doesn’t carry advertisements. But in the meanwhile, they can sign up on the platform and create a page. They will get showcased on the brand section on the app.

“Whoever has joined us has seen an acceleration in followers compared to any other platform. Unlike other platforms, we have ‘carousels’. These are sections or categories on the app where we have all Bollywood together, all politicians together, all brands together. So that leads to an acceleration of people following them,” he said.

While they haven’t started monetising yet, Bidawatka said that ‘they have 10-15 ways, other than advertising, to monetise.’

Abhik Santara
Abhik Santara

Commenting on the latest campaign, Abhik Santara, director & CEO at ^ a t o m network, said while the strategy to make it a ‘verb’ is good, it may not play to the strength of the category.

“The strategy to make it a ‘verb’ is a sane marketing objective. But when your competition is Twitter, one may not necessarily play to the strength of the category. People post what they feel – FB mein post kiya? Have you tweeted? That’s what people use SM/microblogging platforms for. The bigger idea of this platform to empower people to express themselves in their regional language (nine now and nine more to come) is captured well through the hashtag #KooKiyaKya. Also, most of the other platforms are global, this one is truly Indian. I think the films were able to capture the desi humor very well. It’s catchy and relevant. The films and the dialogues are well-crafted and funny. But do we Koo only when we have something funny to say? Don’t know that!,” he said.

Koo has seen phenomenal rise this year, after Twitter got embroiled in a standoff with the Indian government over the blocking and unblocking of accounts linked to the farmer protests. It also saw many Ministers like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan joining it. Apart from them, even government departments such as Telecom, IT, India Post, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, and MyGovIndia, are present on the platform. Isha Foundation’s Jaggi Vasudev, former cricketers Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble have also joined the platform. Even Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut joined the platform after her Twitter account was permanently suspended in February for constantly violating the site’s rules.

With these developments, the app is considered to be favouring the current government and is also seen to be leaning towards the right. However its first TVC doesn’t attempt to address this image. Santara said since that information is privy only to a very few, touching that head on shouldn't be a strategy.

Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India added, “Our idea came from life. When talking to our friends or family in our own language we find the comfort to express ourselves the best. Our intent is to ensure whoever sees these films, should instantly think of many such incidents from their own life. And feel comfortable to express the same in their own language with a wider set of audience on Koo.”

Need a full service agency for your project? Choose among 70 such agencies on afaqs! Marketplace now. Click here.