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.

AUTHOR

Bhumika Khatri

Bhumika covers e-commerce, consumer internet, and everything startup for The Ken in Delhi. In her previous stint at Inc42, she spent two and a half years writing about a breadth of startups and topics. A commerce graduate, Bhumika completed her postgraduate in journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru. You can reach her at [email protected]

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.