“Are you on Whatsapp?”
Ah yes, those trademark millennial parting words. Who among us doesn’t feverishly scroll through our WhatsApp, send GIFs, and update our ‘stories’ with some inane shenanigans and banter?
Well, there’s a new kid on the block, attempting to rival the Facebook-owned messaging service, and it was launched by Baba Ramdev’s very own Patanjali Ayurved. It’s called “Kimbho”, with the tagline “Ab Bharat bolega (Now India will speak)!”
Now, I’m not sure what traditional medicine has to do with texting your BFFs or sending nudes (solicited and consensual, please!), but here’s what Patanjali spokesperson S K Tijarawala said to the Economic Times: “Big technology-based apps in India are being run by MNCs; Patanjali believes it is time there is a swadeshi app run and developed entirely by our own people.”
But it’s not just ‘Make In India’ type swadeshi swag. As Facebook and WhatsApp faced many security and privacy issues, Patanjali tried to swoop in and claim a slice of that technology pie.
Not that there’s anything inherently bad about an Indian app. I mean, Russia has VK, its answer to Facebook. And China has WeChat. So why not India? It’s just that the Kimbho story is brimming with second-hand embarrassment. Let me explain.
First off, “Kimbho” literally means “What’s up?” in Sanskirt. It’s kinda cringey when you remember how Patanjali is trying to compete with WhatsApp (also, did you or did you not just have flashbacks to some older relative confidently calling it the “whatsupp” app? Be honest).
Second, it was taken down hours after being launched on Google Play Store. In that short span of time, it had been downloaded more than 1,50,000 times, and that’s when its glaring errors became obvious. A French security researcher had this to say:
Third, as Business Today reports, “The screenshots used in the application’s homepage had a Pakistani actress Mawra Hocane.” Uhhh, forgive me if I misunderstood, but I thought this was about chest-thumping nationalism, and keeping “videshi” stuff at bay, but did they just… #GoToPakistan?
Fourth, Kimbho appears to be a rip-off of one California-based startup’s app, Bolo Messenger. How do we know this? Well if you had downloaded and used the app even briefly, you would have seen the shoddy replica work:
Tijarawala tried to do some damage control by insisting that the app was only launched for a test-run. But even if that’s true, it doesn’t look like these faux pas can be fixed.
Elliot Anderson’s tweeted facepalm emoji is the only accurate descriptor of Kimbho’s short and chaotic lifespan. Given how poorly the company’s debut in software has gone, perhaps its best that they stick to herbal soaps.
Thanks for wasting everyone’s precious time with your antics, Patanjali! Until then, I’m just here, shaking my head, arms a-kimbho (heh heh), wondering when to expect the next round of drama will hit. Stay tuned.