A new portal, Shubhpuja.com, taps into the $30 billion Indian spiritual market, offering technology-based customised solutions. Shubh Yatra talks to Saumyaa Vardhan, the brain behind the venture
Strategy consultant-turned entrepreneur Saumyaa Vardhan isn’t your usual spiritual guru. The young CEO looks more like a chic boardroom veteran, except when she starts talking about the science of spirituality. An MBA from Imperial College, the UK, Vardhan launched Shubhpuja.com, an e-commerce platform that offers Vedic services including customised pujas, astrology, numerology and Vaastu consultations through qualified professionals for a fee. We talk to her about the three-year-old venture, which is one of the most inspiring startups of 2014 and which has been awarded equity-free seed funding by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
How would you describe Shubhpuja?
Shubhpuja.com is a unique science and technology-based platform that offers authentic Vedic services such as pujas and Vaastu consultation, and also life solutions based on astrology, numerology and palmistry. The offline and online services are offered by qualified professionals.
Before you launched the portal you were a successful strategy consultant in London. What prompted you to make the career change?
Prior to launching Shubhpuja.com, I was a seasoned operations and technology consultant with work experience at KPMG London, Ernst & Young London and Rolls- Royce. But the yearning to give something back to society prompted me to launch this portal. Also, living away from family in London made me realise that like many Indians residing abroad, I had limited opportunities to celebrate our festivals. I felt youngergeneration Indians, both abroad and in the country, were losing touch with their traditions and culture. Several factors, includ-ing limited knowledge of festivals, prayers and mantras, inaccessibility to pandits and qualified professionals and limited time were keeping most away from Indian customs.
How does Shubhpuja.com function?
We have five full-time priests working with us and an extended network of 500 priests, that can focus on requirements of every community. These pandits perform pujas both online and offline. And other than English, they are also proficient in various Indian languages. In Delhi we send pandits to clients’ residences as well, if requested.
What is unique about your portal?
We don’t just connect clients to temples or deliver prasad for a fee. At Shubhpuja.com, we offer offline and online services according to the principles of Vedic sciences. We arrange religious ceremonies according to a person’s requirements and offer mathematics-based astrology consultations.
After analysing the problem a client has come to us with, we study the person’s stars and offer solutions that could include customised pujas. We also offer knowledge about customs and rituals. We don’t want our clients to follow us blindly.
What kind of research did you do before you launched the venture?
As I was creating a whole new industry that had never existed online, I did a complete study of customer understanding and the technicalities of such a venture. I researched the various types of pujas and other spiritual ceremonies that are held, consumer behaviour in this industry and also met several gurus, pandits and astrologers for guidance.
How do you charge for services offered?
During the course of my research I realised the genre lacked a defined price structure. So we formulated a standard product pricing model, according to which we charge clients on the portal. The prices are displayed on the site.
How has the venture influenced you personally?
I was never interested in Vedic knowledge but as I started researching the subject, I grew curious. I enrolled for an advanced professional course on the subject under the guidance of legendary astrologer of modern times KN Rao. I am now a qualified Vaastu Shastra and numerology professional.
What are your expansion plans?
We are established in Delhi and other metros and are looking to grow in Tier-II and Tier-III cities in India. We want to deliver our services for destination weddings and other religious ceremonies abroad. We would like to make Vedic sciences popular across the world, akin to yoga and Ayurveda.