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

So before I grew a beard and joined The Ken, I spent six years in the corporate world at some of the best companies in Bangalore. These firms were well-funded, had solid revenues and to their credit, took a keen interest in learning and development programs for all their employees.

One of the ways that companies invest in L&D is they get attracted by a nice-sounding mission – to democratise information. Make information available and accessible to all. And automatically, learning will happen. Budget usually isn’t a problem in these firms, so they subscribe for ridiculously expensive outlets : paid newsletters, industry reports, research journals…you name it.

The HR in-charge usually then compiles all access credentials in an email, adds a witty subject line, and then sends it to everyone in the organization. Shortly after this, employees log in everyday, read everything diligently, and decision-making gets better and better. The company goes to new heights.

Hah. Of course not. Nobody in the organization cares.

I have worked in several companies, with many well-meaning people who try to solve this problem, and almost always the same thing happens. App Annie. eMarketer. Euromonitor. The list goes on and on. Everybody buys them. And the only time anybody in the organisation tries to access them is the day before an annual presentation for the executive team. Also, this is because they need a slide to show ‘Market Landscape’ or ‘Key Trends’ or something like that.  

Always happens.

I don’t really blame anybody here. The companies seem to be sincere in their intention, and the employees seem equally sincere that they need to learn more to be more effective. What then is the problem?

I suspect it’s partly because, nobody, no matter how eager they are to learn something new, can bring themself to go to a website periodically to read boring, dense reports. How often do you wake up every morning, all gung-ho and excited to read this month’s report on the share of time spent across digital media by geographies?

Now imagine if I offered you an opportunity to gain this knowledge through reading a new story everyday. Just one story about your industry, or your sector, maybe your competitor or even your company. Something insightful. Something well-reported. Blended with data. And delivered via a memorable, witty, personalised email?

I suspect learning and development will be remarkably different in these organisations.

The Ken has always had corporate subscriptions. We never really marketed it, or promoted it much. I don’t think we even put out a tweet about it. And we tweet about a lot of nonsense (ed: are you allowed to say this?). Despite this, a few companies reached out to us sometime back, and signed-up for it. This is noteworthy. But what’s even more remarkable is how we built the product.

We did it on three principles.

Show me the money

Have you ever tried to purchase a corporate product online? Like a research journal or an industry report or even a group subscription for a business news publication? Every website talks about the product. About how amazing they are. But the price? Ah. That’s a different story.

For instance, look at eMarketer’s pricing page.

I don’t blame them. Not all companies are the same. If one company is willing to pay you more, has a larger budget, why not try to take more from them?

That’s not what we believe. The Ken’s journalism is fair, transparent and trustworthy. It’s something we stand by. It’s core to who we are. Our products have to mirror our journalism. This is why we have always had transparent pricing for all our corporate customers right from the beginning.

Self-Serve Approach

Have you tried using enterprise products? Unless you are a massive company like Google, you are usually assigned an account manager. This person is responsible for catering to your requests – like adding users, deleting users, and is also usually in the business of trying to upsell more products to you. Media companies usually aren’t product companies. They don’t understand the benefits that self-serve products bring to the table. Fewer know how to build them.

At The Ken, we have a dashboard for every corporate customer. To let them do all of this. Assign subscriptions. Revoke subscriptions. An employee has left your organisation and you’d like to transfer his access to someone else? No problem. No need to email us. You can do it yourself. Will take you two minutes. It’s a beautiful, seamless, experience.

Network Effect

We had some companies reach out to us who asked us – we love The Ken. Not just some of us at the company. All of us. Can we just access it on our internal WiFi network? It will make the whole thing easier. We can give you our IP addresses. Would it be complicated?

Not really, we said. We can do it.

But our offices aren’t in one location. They are in different places. Different countries. All of them have a different LAN.

Sure. No problem, we said.

We got to work. And that’s why today, we offer corporate-wide access as well.

There are other cool stuff as well, but these are the three things we are most proud of.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Vijay Nair, the founder of OML, arguably India’s hippest artist and event management company. In July last year OML surprised us by not just becoming one of our first corporate customers, but by buying a subscription for every single employee. I wasn’t around at The Ken back then, but Rohin tells me he was flabbergasted. So, he asked Vijay what made him do that. This is what Vijay said:

In businesses, most times bosses make sure they know more than people who report to them. It should be the other way around. If you want to make smarter decisions, you have to be willing to surround yourself with smarter people.

There’s not much of independent, long form informative pieces. It’s not about news, but about understanding subjects in depth. Unless you understand something, you can’t form an opinion.

For instance, yesterday’s piece was about stents. Now it has nothing to do with our business, but it helped us understand how free markets and regulations work, and how ecosystems get impacted when the govt. gets involved. In our field, we too have to work with govt agencies a lot for approvals etc., so it helps to know the potential impacts.

He’s not the only one. Today we have nearly 30 corporates as our customers. The mix of customers is incredible. They range from multinational technology companies, banks, media startups, Public Relations outfits, Biotech companies, VC firms and even PSUs. Some have a dozen subscriptions. Others have hundreds.

By all accounts, the feedback has been amazing, and the experience has been transformative.

If you’d like to join them you can check out our page, read our testimonials and sign-up here.


Praveen Krishnan

Praveen is the Head of Product at The Ken. Before joining The Ken, his last role was Director of Product at InMobi - the world's largest independent ad-network. He holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore and an engineering degree from NIT Trichy.

View Full Profile