E-pujas: Start-ups catering to NRIs look to domestic market this festive season

Despite restrictions on public gatherings at temples, the pandemic did little to dampen Varamahalakshmi festival celebrations on Friday with many families taking the festivities online. Markets that were open recorded brisk business on Thursday and Friday with a huge demand for flowers and puja items.

Significantly, a lot of celebrations and pujas seem to have moved to the digital space. Several start-ups that offer online purohit and puja assistance catering to an NRI customer base earlier are tapping into the domestic market. The coming festival season is a big litmus test, firms say.

Nischay Chaturvedi, co-founder and CEO of city-based SmartPuja, said they are offering e-puja services wherein a priest will conduct the puja at their location and simultaneously guide customers to perform it at their homes remotely. Customers are given a checklist of items required for the puja in advance.

“We have performed marriages and house-warming ceremonies through Zoom calls in the domestic market during the lockdown. Customers are now more open to this mode of assistance. We had several bookings for Varamahalakshmi and have already started receiving bookings for Gauri-Ganesha, which is big for the sector,” he said.

Public celebrations and pujas are also moving online. Krishna Janmashtami at ISKCON, Bengaluru, is a key event in the city’s calendar that usually sees several thousands congregate at the temple. This year, however, ISKCON will livestream the puja and other cultural programmes for two days on August 11 and 12 on all social media handles. Devotees will not be allowed to physically participate at the temple.

The largest pandal, Bengaluru Ganesha Utsav, celebrating its 58th year, has decided to take the 11-day music festival online. “We are putting up a studio from where over 700 artistes will perform, and it will be livestreamed digitally,” said Nandish Mariyappa, Managing Trustee, Bengaluru Ganesha Utsav.

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During the lockdown, they had launched daily music on their social media handles. “We ran it for 45 days and garnered over three million views. Enthused by that response , we have decided to take the celebrations online. We will install a Ganesha idol at an indoor space and livestream the pooja as well,” he added.

Other pandals in the city are also mulling the digital streaming route given that the BBMP has banned public installation of idols.

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Sagar Biswas

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