City’s new mantra: Go online to find priests
Saurabh Shah, a Ganpati mandal trustee from Thane, did not expect to find a pandit online. But, desperate to get a puja conducted during the city’s busiest festival, he tried anyway. The Internet did not disappoint him. Shah found a number of websites that not only offered to send a pandit, but also gave him the option of ordering the puja paraphernalia, and selecting the preferred caste of his pandit – all at ‘standardised’ rates.
“I was apprehensive at first, as we are so used to running around pandits at temples nearby. But, the service was as professional and hassle-free as getting a water cooler installed,” Shah said.
Websites such as Gharkapandit.com, Hindupujan.com, Wheresmypandit.com, Vadhyar.com and Panditsassociation.com are just some of the ventures that offer such services in the city, and they have all popped up in the past few years.
Interestingly, the people behind these websites are young corporates, who launched the idea as they were fed up with the drill of finding a pandit every festival season.
Arun Poddar, a 29-year-old CA, who runs a consultancy firm in Andheri (East), said he started Wheresmypandit.com six months ago, after he sensed a business opportunity.
“We are still dependent on contacts for something as essential as conducting a puja,” he said. Poddar’s website offers 30 puja services, including house-warming, thread ceremony, Laxmi puja, and vivah puja. The services include arranging for the puja ‘samagri’ and decorating the venue. During Ganeshotsav alone, his company arranged for more than 100 pujas. It will now cash in on the upcoming wedding season.
Wheresmypandit.com has a team of 30 priests on board, headed by Ramdev Mishra, who has been a priest for two decades. “I was surprised when I was asked to join, but I see it is the need of changing times,” said Mishra.
Another website, Hindupujan.com, was launched in 2012 by Arvind Pathak, a former IT professional. It offers ‘authentic’ Vedic priests. “Anybody wearing saffron and sporting a tikka calls himself a pandit these days. There is no way for the ‘yajaman’ (client) to find out if the pandit is chanting the right hymns or conducting the puja correctly,” he said.
“We have tied up with 3,200 priests, who are qualified from recognised universities. We ask them for documents. We also provide the client with authentic samagri, sourced from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,” said Pathak.
He recently arranged a kundli-dosh correction puja for a local politician, for which a priest specially travelled to the city from Varanasi.
Rahul Kumar, 31, co-founded Gharkapandit.com in 2009 in Bangalore. Five years on, Kumar’s “e-commerce” venture is so successful, he not only gave up a full-time job as software engineer, but also expanded the company to Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi, besides Mumbai.
Kumar, a native of Uttar Pradesh, said he had a hard time finding a priest for a house-warming ceremony, which prompted him to launch the site.
“We got our first order on the third day of launching the site, even without advertising. We keep a 25% profit margin for the service, which is good business,” he said.