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Offline sales, online service: can topup cards work for streaming platforms?

In 2018, Hoichoi announced that it would be selling topup cards to woo subscribers in smaller towns without digital payment methods. This week, ALTBalaji launched a similar payment method, in partnership with PayPoint. Just how effective is this unusual strategy — selling a digital subscription through physical card sales? Who buys topup cards? Hoichoi, which primarily targets Bengali-speaking audiences, found out that topup cards helped it in an unexpected market — B2B clients. Over the last two years, the company says it has had some success selling its topup cards in bulk to businesses, who then hand it out to employees as a perk (à la Sodexo), or bundle them with sales to customers. Soumya Mukherjee, Vice President of Revenue & Strategy at Hoichoi, told MediaNama that they have already made as much money from such sales in half of 2020 as they had in all of 2019. Then again, these cards are not going to smaller towns in a major way, which was what Hoichoi originally intended. Vishnu Mohta, one of Hoichoi's Co-founders, said that the cards were conceived to "help us reach the masses in Tier II and Tier III cities". Mukherjee said that the company hasn't explored the retail supply chains to distribute cards deeply, and that plans to expand the top-up cards' availability this year were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cards also helped the company in another unexpected way: their expansion to Bangladesh. Digital payment methods in Bangladesh have not matured to the…

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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