Almost a year ago, I took up the challenge of joining a startup - Koo - in the Corporate Communications team. Everything about the organization was unique - young founders with a global vision, diverse and multi-lingual teams across the board, an unusual sense of pride - I was feeling all of this for the first time. Like Koo, it had in store many firsts for my career - it was also my first-ever opportunity to experience a young social media company in the established social media industry; it was my first opportunity to understand the nuances of social media users who are yet to experience social media or feel restricted because of the existing social media platforms that have been built with an ‘English first’ approach. Therefore, on the occasion of World Social Media Day, I thought why not share my wonderful journey with my peers and talk about what makes me thrive as a communications professional with a bucket full of first-time experiences at Koo.
Communications-first approach to solve a communication-oriented business problem: The everyday job of the Communications Team at Koo is to bring the brand closer to first-time social media users or not-so-internet-savvy Indians - users from #bharat, as we popularly call it. The audience wanted a digital platform to express themselves and connect freely and in a language of their choice. To understand the nuances of our target audience better, we built a team that comprised PR experts from across India who represented a variety of Indian languages. This resulted in a more focused and language-driven PR approach which was a first-time experience for everyone on the team. What this also ensured was that communications professionals who represented their own language brought to the table geographical and cultural nuances that were otherwise lost on an ‘English-first’ communications team. The approach not only made Koo more popular amongst the regional media but also contributed to the adoption of the platform by users. By the way, we have barely just scratched the surface.
Telling the Koo story - The most popular question that came to me and my colleagues - and is still asked of the founders of Koo is “why does India need Koo?” Here’s a perspective. Internet users in India in 2022 stand at 658 mn people. It is a well-known fact that more than 90 per cent of India communicates and expresses themselves in their mother tongue. The existing social media platforms largely attract English-speaking audiences, leaving behind the rest of the population out in the cold. Koo - with its value proposition of ‘Indian languages first’ enables expression and communication for these people - who also have opinions but are unable to share them online owing to the limited opportunities for expression. To enable this, Koo has an industry-first feature called Multi-lingual Koo - which enables users to translate their posts in all the languages available on the platform. Where else have you experienced this? These proof points have been the building blocks of our communications approach - we focus on regional media to bring our message to our target audience. Koo has offered a perspective that many of us, especially the English speaking audience, has missed.
Remember the popular word “narrative” - During my tenure here, I was asked how Koo fits the social media industry narrative and I said, “when you don't fit the narrative, you make one that fits the brand.” and we did exactly that. Koo is the first social media platform - globally - to launch initiatives such as Voluntary Self Verification and open algorithms. It was one of the most significant announcements for the communications team to manage and we took it to the world with our heads held high. All it took was an impactful narrative that people at large could relate to and comprehend - we just did that and it assumed a life of its own!
Local PR & global aspirations - Remember I spoke about the unusual sense of pride? Here’s what it means - the Comms Team at Koo is working for a business that’s built from India, for India and the world. The abundance of languages is not unique to India - 80 per cent of the world communicates in a native language. Koo envisions solving for India first and then helping the world, too. This means that as Koo grows to international markets, there may be a global communications team comprising multi-lingual comms professionals! Do we need any more reason to be proud?
All in all, a lot has been done, and a lot is work in progress - what will always stay with me is this never-before experience of working with Koo!
For the unversed, Koo is a multi-lingual social media platform (microblogging) that enables expression for people who prefer to communicate in their mother tongue. Koo is currently available in 10 Indian languages.
Lipika Kapil, is Senior Public Relations Manager, Koo India.