Shunwei Capital, a Chinese venture capital firm, is exiting its investment in Bombinate Technologies, the parent company of Indian social media platform Koo. In a press release, the company announced that existing investors along with a few other individuals have bought out Shunwei’s stake in the firm. The individuals that invested into the company include former cricketer Javagal Srinath, BookMyShow founder Ashish Hemrajani, Udaan co-founder Sujeet Kumar, Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Zerodha founder Nikhil Kamath.
Koo is an Indian-made microblogging platform, which rose to sudden prominence last month as a replacement of sorts to Twitter. wKoo has since become a safe space of sorts for supporters of the Indian government, who believe that Twitter censors specific content and is biased towards critics of the government. Twitter recently defied the Indian government’s orders to block accounts and tweets related to the ongoing farmers’ protests.
Several prominent Indian leaders and ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, have signed up on Koo in the past few weeks. Koo also won the Indian government’s Atma Nirbhar Challenge in August 2020, bolstering the app’s Indian-made credentials.
However, the apps ‘Atmanirbhar’ image was questioned after it came to light that Bombinate Technologies had a Chinese investor, Shunwei Capital, which held a little more than 9% stake. The company quickly addressed these concerns, telling the media that Shuwei Capital was on its way out soon. In fact, the same day as Bombinate’s announcement, Congress Member of Parliament Manickam Tagore B raised the issue in a question in the Lok Sabha, asking the Ministry if it was aware of the Chinese investment in Koo, and whether this gave rise to privacy and security concerns. The ministry, in its reply, said that the investment by Shunwei took place before April 2020, when the government had issued Press Note 3 putting restriction on Foreign Direct Investments from neighbouring countries (read: China). The ministry also said that since Koo operates in India, it has to adhere to all existing data privacy and security regulations issued by the government.
Javagal Srinath, the former cricketer who is one of Bombinate’s newest investors, said that he was happy to be backing Koo. “The fact that they are building a platform to bring the voices of Indian language audiences onto the internet is commendable and as an Indian I extend my support to them wholeheartedly,” he said.
Aprameya Radhakrishna, CEO and co-founder of Koo, said, “As earlier stated, we had been in discussion with Shunwei Capital to enable a smooth exit after it invested in our company 2.5 years ago while we were raising funds for Vokal [another company run by Bombinate] and have now fully exited the parent company Bombinate Technologies.”
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