Biswa Kalyan Rath is sitting in a dimly-lit room with chairs all around him. He’s flanked by brick walls with neon lights and posters—the kind of dingy surroundings where many comedians’ careers are born. Rath is wearing a light checkered shirt, a bow tie, and a jacket, along with jeans. His hair is properly combed, with not a strand out of place.
Regular viewers of the popular comedian’s gigs would know that it’s not how he usually presents himself. But this is not a regular comedy gig. There are no audience members—at least in person. He’s facing and talking to a camera. “Hello, welcome to FrontRow. My name is Biswa, and I’ll try to teach you comedy,” he says.
Rath is teaching an online course called “Learn Comedy” on FrontRow, a celebrity-led online learning platform. It currently offers 10 pre-recorded courses from celebrity instructors including music director and composer Amit Trivedi, cricketers Suresh Raina and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and rapper DIVINE.
FrontRow only launched in November 2020 but, thanks to the pandemic, it has grown significantly. It already has more than 500,000 app installs on Google Play. The platform is reportedly reportedly Entrackr FrontRow set to raise $10 Mn in Series A at $60 Mn valuation Read more set to raise a $10-12 million Series A round at a $60 million valuation, according to Entrackr. The investors would include venture capital firms like EightRoad Ventures, Lightspeed, and Elevation Capital. FrontRow had raised raised Livemint FrontRow raises $3.2 million from venture capital firms, Padukone family office Read more seed funding of $3.2 million late last year.
It’s not the only company that’s trying to sell celebrity-taught classes to Indians during the pandemic. In the last 15 months, at least four other similar platforms have cropped up, including Unluclass, Celebrity School, and Whiz League. They feature celebrities including actors Manoj Bajpayee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, singers Shaan and Monali Thakur, chefs Vikas Khanna and Ranveer Brar, and tennis player Sania Mirza.
Each course includes 15-25 pre-recorded video lessons that are 10 minutes long on average. The entire course length is about as long as a movie by Madhur Bhandarkar, who teaches direction at Celebrity School. This is why the courses aren’t expensive: they can be as cheap as Rs 499 ($6) and go up to Rs 2,999 ($40), depending on the platform. Users can also buy lifetime access packs that include all courses on a particular platform. They cost between Rs 3,999 ($53) and Rs 8,999 ($120).
All the platforms are modelled on the global pioneer in this space, San Francisco-based MasterClass.