Patanjali’s messaging app is already a disaster

Too many questions.
Too many questions.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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Patanjali’s big leap into India’s messaging apps market is already a disaster by day 2.

Hours after launching a trial version of Kimbho, an app that claimed to rival Facebook-owned WhatsApp, the consumer goods firm abruptly removed it from the Google Play Store and iOS saying it was still under development.

This followed a furore among tech geeks, hackers, and industry-watchers who claimed it was a rip-off of an existing messaging service and that its security features are riddled with with loopholes.

“Technical work is in progress & #KIMBHO APP will be officially launched soon,” said SK Tijarawala, the company’s spokesperson, in a tweet on Thursday evening. It had been downloaded by some 150,000 people, he added.

Safety concerns

On May 30, yoga guru Ramdev-promoted Patanjali stunned market-watchers by announcing the launch of Kimbho, a swadeshi (indigenous) chat app. Like most other consumer products from the firm’s stable, this, too, was pitched as an indigenously developed messaging service and an alternative to foreign ones like WhatsApp.

Kimbho roughly means “What’s Up” in Sanskrit and lists a certain California-based Appdios Inc as its developer on iOS.

However, French hacker Elliot Alderson, who’d earlier flagged security concerns in the Indian government’s Aadhaar project, called Kimbho a “joke.”

Alderson added that the Android version of the app was a security disaster.

Besides, users who downloaded the app said they were unable to send messages or even receive calls, further denting its credibility.

The debacle comes close on the heels of Patanjali’s recent efforts to pivot into the technology and telecom space. Earlier this week, it announced a tie-up with local telecom provider BSNL to launch Patanjali-branded SIM cards.

It is also launching its range of readymade garments next year and is looking to take over packaged foods company Ruchi Soya.

While experts believe Patanjali’s swadeshi narrative can help it diversify, the Kimbho disaster has come at a time when it is struggling to meet financial targets.

Patanjali closed the financial year 2018 with the same turnover as the previous year, Acharya Balkrishna had said in an interview with the Mint newspaper on May 18, hit by the goods and services tax and demonetisation.