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Now you can donate through SMS

A new software will make it easy for anyone to make cash offerings at Tirupati, reports Sujata Anandan.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 17:38 IST

When Anil Lala, Chairman of the Theme group, mainly a Bangalore-based garment exports company now getting into telecom applications, found it impossible to buy a ticket to one of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams' poojas, he decided to make it easy for himself and a host of friends.

These friends would hand him loads of cash offerings for the donation box at  Tirupati, saying they wished to acknowledge various prayers answered by God but found it impossible to get a look-in at the busy temple. "So would you please drop this into the donation box, now that you have your ticket?" they would ask.

Twelve months and nearly Rs one crore later, the group has come out with a software that will make it easy for any devout person to make a simple offering to the donation box — on SMS. This is different from the pooja services that are being offered by various mobile phone companies to their customers. Those are city-specific and have their limitations.

However, when this particular "offering" service gets going, anyone can donate sums from Rs 11 to Rs 251 (it is being capped at that figure because the service is being provided with the masses in mind) to any temple or place of worship from anywhere in the country and instantly receive an acknowledgement and receipt number on SMS. A hard copy of the receipt can be had from the temple, if the devotee so wishes, on production of the SMS acknowledgement with the receipt number.

"This is being done for transparency," Lala told Hindustan Times. "We expect millions of offerings, so accounts have to be clear."

What's in it for the software developers? Volumes—the mobile companies they tie up with will debit a portion of the SMS fees that they charge customers to the Theme group for the service. Volumes (and the ease of making the offerings) is also the motivating factor for the temples. The service is launching from Karnataka mid-November at the Dharmasthala, Mantralayam and ISKCON temples. Closer home, it is expected to kick off in December from the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai and later the Sai Baba temple at Shirdi.

According to Dr Vijaya Patil, a trustee at Siddhi Vinayak, "I believe even temples must make full use of technology. Of course, there are some traditionalists who find this befuddling but I found people willing to pray to Siddhi Vinayak even from across the road. The crowds make it impossible for them to approach the donation box. So why not this service to help them along the way?"

At the moment, the Siddhi Vinayak temple is in the process of installing a mother server (each mother server will cost Rs 2 lakh) to cater to this service. Similar mother servers have already been installed at the three temples in Karnataka and trial runs are proving immensely smooth and successful.

Says Lala, "I am very excited about it all. I have used the best quality of mother servers for the service and I will go across to temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, churches and other places of religious worship and even charitable institutions in the second round." Every SMS will go through the Theme group mother server, so that the software providers can monitor the donations, collect the cash from the mobile phone companies and deliver it to the temple in due course.

The mobile company they have tied up with in the first stage has asked the Theme group for a headstart of at least two months on the service and the software producers have agreed.  Other mobile companies round the country will be roped in later. And the service will go global once the rupee becomes fully convertible.

Email sanandan@hindustantimes.com