Photos: Online startups offer grieving Indians funeral kits and Hindu priests

When Parag Mehta had to arrange a second family funeral in two weeks he was distraught and short of time to get the 38 items for an elaborate Hindu ceremony -- so he went online and found a "final rites kit". Many bereaved relatives -- particularly busy professionals in India's burgeoning cities -- see the services as a godsend, but traditional family-run funeral shops say their businesses are hurting.

Updated On Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST 7 Photos
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Workers arrange the various materials of “a final rites kit” at the company SarvaPooja’s manufacturing unit in Mumbai. Grieving families normally have to rush between shops buying dozens of items needed to say goodbye to loved ones but now online companies are offering a one-stop solution with “final rites kits”. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Workers arrange the various materials of “a final rites kit” at the company SarvaPooja’s manufacturing unit in Mumbai. Grieving families normally have to rush between shops buying dozens of items needed to say goodbye to loved ones but now online companies are offering a one-stop solution with “final rites kits”. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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Workers arrange pre-cut bamboo to make a funeral cot, at the SarvaPooja factory. After Parag Mehta placed his order, a box arrived containing 38 items for a Hindu ceremony including earthen pots, incense sticks, cow urine and dung, rice, sesame seeds and rose water. “It made our lives easier in an extremely emotional and stressful time,” Mehta, 52, told AFP. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Workers arrange pre-cut bamboo to make a funeral cot, at the SarvaPooja factory. After Parag Mehta placed his order, a box arrived containing 38 items for a Hindu ceremony including earthen pots, incense sticks, cow urine and dung, rice, sesame seeds and rose water. “It made our lives easier in an extremely emotional and stressful time,” Mehta, 52, told AFP. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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Hindu funerals are complex affairs and typically involve anointing the body with sandalwood paste, the burning of cow dung and the breaking of coconuts. Family members carry the deceased into the crematorium on a bamboo stretcher. They then circle the funeral pyre with an earthen pot before setting the body on fire. The ashes are often immersed in the river Ganga. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Hindu funerals are complex affairs and typically involve anointing the body with sandalwood paste, the burning of cow dung and the breaking of coconuts. Family members carry the deceased into the crematorium on a bamboo stretcher. They then circle the funeral pyre with an earthen pot before setting the body on fire. The ashes are often immersed in the river Ganga. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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A worker tests the load bearing capacity of a funeral cot. Mehta purchased his kit from SarvaPooja, whose name translates to “prayers for all”. Its founder Nitesh Mehta, no relation to Parag, said he had sold around 2,000 kits since launching just under a year ago. The specific nature of Hindu ceremonies presented a gap in the market for a one-stop solution, Mehta said. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

A worker tests the load bearing capacity of a funeral cot. Mehta purchased his kit from SarvaPooja, whose name translates to “prayers for all”. Its founder Nitesh Mehta, no relation to Parag, said he had sold around 2,000 kits since launching just under a year ago. The specific nature of Hindu ceremonies presented a gap in the market for a one-stop solution, Mehta said. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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“We decided to create a localised solution for a very Indian problem,” said Mehta. The company isn’t profitable yet, but traditional stores say they are starting to feel the pinch. “We have 40 years experience offering customised products but people want shortcuts and quick-fixes in this day and age and these platforms offer that,” said Shashi Shinde, who runs a small funeral shop beside a crematorium in Mumbai. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

“We decided to create a localised solution for a very Indian problem,” said Mehta. The company isn’t profitable yet, but traditional stores say they are starting to feel the pinch. “We have 40 years experience offering customised products but people want shortcuts and quick-fixes in this day and age and these platforms offer that,” said Shashi Shinde, who runs a small funeral shop beside a crematorium in Mumbai. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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The kit can be used by most traditional Hindu communities as well as by followers of the Sikh faith. “Online companies are starting to affect our business,” Shinde added. His competitors include Ahmedabad startup Mokshshil and Kolkata-based Anthyesti, the latter offering a similar package, booking crematoriums, priests and transport to the funeral. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

The kit can be used by most traditional Hindu communities as well as by followers of the Sikh faith. “Online companies are starting to affect our business,” Shinde added. His competitors include Ahmedabad startup Mokshshil and Kolkata-based Anthyesti, the latter offering a similar package, booking crematoriums, priests and transport to the funeral. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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“India is a billion people and billion stigmas, prejudices against taboo subjects like death,” Bilva Desai Singh, who runs Mokshshil said. “Awareness is key to enabling conversations about dignity in death and we’re trying to do that.” Mehta meanwhile said SarvaPooja is also considering launching arrangements for Muslims. “Death is inevitable and we want to help everyone bid farewell to their loved ones with dignity,” he explained. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

“India is a billion people and billion stigmas, prejudices against taboo subjects like death,” Bilva Desai Singh, who runs Mokshshil said. “Awareness is key to enabling conversations about dignity in death and we’re trying to do that.” Mehta meanwhile said SarvaPooja is also considering launching arrangements for Muslims. “Death is inevitable and we want to help everyone bid farewell to their loved ones with dignity,” he explained. (Indranil Mukherjee / AFP)

Updated on Nov 29, 2018 10:07 AM IST
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