The largest media company in India is waking up to it. Soon, Times Internet, a subsidiary of Bennett Coleman & Company (BCCL) will launch an online subscription-based media product. The editorial team is being put together as you read this.

On Monday, restaurant discovery and food delivery startup, Zomato announced the launch of its subscription-based product Zomato Gold in India. Gold, which the company calls “an exclusive members club”, is expected to simultaneously launch in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR in the coming days. It is the company’s second subscription product after Treats, where it charges users an annual fee of Rs 249 for a dessert with every order. A Zomato spokesperson said that the company has registered over 50,000 users for ‘Treats’ as of October.

Screenshot of an email confirming Zomato Gold's imminent launch

Three months ago, online travel agency MakeMyTrip launched its own variant of a subscription-based service called MMT Black. It didn’t stop there. Close on the heels of Black, a free, invite-only, spend-based offering targeted at high-frequency travellers; the company launched MMT ‘Double Black’, where users pay an annual fee for cancellation benefits (full refunds) and a priority resolution guarantee.


The number of users who have signed up for MakeMyTrip's spending-based loyalty programme, MMT Black

Flush with funds, Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce unicorn, is also expected to restart its ‘Flipkart First’ subscription-based loyalty programme in the coming weeks.

A simple question must be asked here. What’s going on?

The last 18 months have been pivotal in the rise of subscription-based digital products and services in India. For a variety of reasons. One, entry of Amazon Prime is perceived by many as a game-changer. More and more people see value in a year-long membership that guarantees, among other things, next-day delivery, grocery shopping, access to video content, and now, a voice-based device in the form of Echo. Two, the entry of services like Netflix and Hotstar. These have played a role in habit-formation. So, to binge-watch House of Cards or Narcos, you have to pay a fee. Many are on it—4.2 million, as per the KPMG Media and Entertainment industry report (PDF), 2017.

Timing, according to Satish Meena of Forrester Research, is most important. Citing the example of Amazon Prime that “opened up the subscription model like no one else did”, he says. “It is very similar in the case of Zomato. They want to be the default for food delivery. They already have content, search and discovery, what they need is transactions.”

A niche business

While there is a renewed interest in subscription models, also known as the ‘recurring revenue’ model in some parts of the world, it is one of the oldest in existence, pioneered largely by the newspaper and the communications industry.


Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

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.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? 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.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

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?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.