Get full access to one story every week, and to summaries of all other stories. Just create a free account

In October 2016 we went all-in on the business model we felt was the best way to balance original, high-quality business journalism with long-term sustainability: paywalls. 30 months later I’m proud to say we haven’t wavered from our decision one bit. From the outside, The Ken’s business model continues to be pretty much the same it was when we launched—an original, deeply reported, long-form business story each day, protected behind a “strict paywall”.

But behind the scenes, we’ve been constantly rearchitecting the crux of The Ken, our paywalls.

Paywalls are a business model. Paywalls aren’t barriers.

When we started, our paywalls could only be lowered by subscribers purchasing individual subscriptions. It took us well over a year to understand that we needed to separate the roles of subscribers from that of payers. Once we realised that, we enabled our paywalls to be lowered by employers, via corporate subscriptions. Employees were the subscribers, and their employers, the payers.

Six months later, our paywalls supported the ability for colleges to lower them, via campus-wide subscriptions. Students and faculty members were the subscribers, and educational institutions, the payers.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce our most ambitious and radical paywall innovation ever, the ability for any person, company or brand to lower it for those who may not be able to afford so themselves.

Introducing Patron-funded subscriptions

The Ken’s Patron subscriptions enable business leaders, investors, senior executives and companies to directly fund annual subscriptions in bulk for readers who may not yet be able to afford them. Each Patron subscriber funds a certain number of annual subscriptions (ranging from 50 to 250), which we double by matching an equal number of subscriptions from our side.

Patrons can then decide who these subscriptions should go to. For instance, their alma maters, bootstrapped startups in their sector, young employees or specialist professionals. Or they can leave that to us to figure out and solve.

Here’s a list of our initial Patrons, some of whom have chosen to remain anonymous.

  1. V. Balakrishnan, Partner and Chairman, Exfinity Venture Partners
  2. DSG Consumer Partners, Investment Firm
  3. Saama Capital, Investment Firm
  4. Pallav Nadhani, Co-founder and CEO, Fusion Charts
  5. Aprameya Radhakrishnan, Founder and CEO, Vokal India
  6. Deepak Natraj, Former Managing Director, Aarin Capitals
  7. Kapil Chopra, Former President, The Oberoi Group
  8. Founder, Private Equity Fund
  9. Partner, Global Investment Bank
  10. Partner, Global Investment Bank
  11. Founder and CEO, Internet and E-commerce company
  12. Founder and CEO, Media Company
  13. Investment Manager, Impact Investment Fund
  14. Founder and Director, Private Investment Fund

Once funded by Patrons, these annual subscriptions can be applied for and claimed via an online, transparent process. It’s an entirely original, ground-up design unlike anything you might have seen globally, much less in India. Because for the last two months, a multi-disciplinary team of product, engineering, business and editorial folk at The Ken have been reimagining and building this.

These are the initial reader segments we’re offering Patron-funded subscriptions in:

  1. Pre-seed Startups
  2. Medical Professionals
  3. Research Scholars
  4. Policy Organisations
  5. Law Students
  6. Non-profits

If you fall into one of these categories (or know of a friend who might), I’d encourage you to apply.

But why do people or companies become Patrons? Because they believe in the importance of quality, unbiased journalism in business. Because they’re wise enough to know that giving away quality journalism free of cost only devalues it. And because they want to help in whatever way they can to sustainably expand the audience that gets to read The Ken.

They do that by helping lower our paywalls for others.

Because paywalls aren’t barriers.

Unless you think paying for TV is a barrier. Or that paying for streaming music is a barrier. Or paying for apps is a barrier. Or the checkout counter at a supermarket is a barrier.

Are well-paid professional journalists a barrier? Are profitable and sustainable media organisations a barrier? Is innovation in media a barrier? Is high-quality journalism itself a barrier?

They aren’t. Our constantly evolving paywall is the foundation of our originality, independence and depth.

For which we can now thank our Patrons too.

You can read more about our Patrons here. And you can apply for a Patron-funded subscription here.


Rohin Dharmakumar

Rohin is co-founder and CEO at The Ken. He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta and an engineering degree in Computer Sciences from the R.V.C.E., Bangalore.

View Full Profile