As of 2023, the Indian faith market stands at a whopping $58.56 Bn, and startups have enough room for disruption and growth in this sector
On the back of growing demand for spiritual apps, market players anticipate more VC funds entering the market, higher margins, companies going public in the not-so-distant future
The spiritual tech space is getting a massive boost from young individuals in the age group of 25-35 years and NRIs who want to stay connected with their culture and faith
In India, faith is quite a profitable line of work, and it is this emotional state of humans that is fuelling the growth of many startups in the not-so-mystical realm of spiritual tech.
The statement stands true especially when the country today is witnessing a wave of startups that in some way or another are disrupting the ages-old devotion market with new-age tech.
According to a study, as of 2023, the Indian faith market stands at a whopping $58.56 Bn with religious / pilgrim tourism accounting for a major share in this sector. The industry players Inc42 spoke to for this story estimate that the startups can easily capture 10% of the burgeoning religious economy of India.
Only a decade ago, telecom service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, and Jio used to offer astrology, and horoscope services by allowing the customers to dial a particular number and charging them on a minute basis. Gradually the spiritual tech sector is trying to almost replicate the same with modern technological tools.
The spiritual tech market has also deployed evolving technology including AI, and live streaming to enhance their offerings ranging from astrology, numerology, tarot card reading, e-visits ( darshans) to temples, online Puja, e-kundalis, raashis and selling gemstones.
As a society where faith is deeply embedded in our culture, technology is significantly propelling the growth of spiritual tech startups, with many reporting robust profit margins, substantial revenue growth, and VC funding. Marketing has also been at the heart of the sudden boom in the spiritual tech industry.
If you are a regular Instagram hopper, you would have come across many advertisements where a priest/ astrologer is seen in a conversation with a person seeking to address his problems.
“Just recently, during the ongoing Cricket World Cup, a group of Indian cricket team fans organised e-puja through our application and donated INR 25 Lakh to seek God’s blessings,” a spiritual tech startup’s cofounder said, requesting anonymity.
He added that monetisation in the space is not a concern because of the way Indians donate in the name of faith, devotion and spirituality, and some of the prime areas comprise astrology, numerology, tarot card readings, virtual temple visits (darshans), online pujas, e-kundali, zodiac consultations, and the sale of gemstones.
“We have seen an NRI tech founder and his family spend INR 7 Cr on temple darshans and astrology services in the past few years,” the CEO quoted above said.
On the back of growing demand, market players anticipate more VC funds entering the market, higher margins, increasing users and even companies going public in the not-so-distant future.
Meanwhile, multiple industry leaders we spoke with have made a very interesting revelation — spiritual tech startups are drawing more than 70% of their revenue share from younger users (25-35 years).
Why The Sudden Boom In The Spiritual Tech Arena?
There are multiple factors behind the sudden rise of the Indian spiritual tech space. The UPI revolution, cheap internet, the rise of the app culture, and, of course, the unwavering and undented Indian faith are some of the major tailwinds for this interesting Indian startup sector.
“Being a technology-first platform, our substantial growth is primarily attributed to UPI, as it facilitates numerous microtransactions. Next is the penetration of 4G and 5G services. We see a lot of traction on the live streaming feature, which has been possible with a high-speed mobile internet connection,” Anmol Jain, the cofounder and chief business officer of Astrotalk said.
The price factor has also been instrumental in attracting younger age groups. A case in point is the online special puja, which can be attended for just a few hundred rupees charges at half or one-third of the conventional prices. This kind of setup is especially helpful for people who cannot travel to places but need a medium to connect with their deity’s place of worship. And this is just one of the many examples.
Besides online darshan and puja, astrology and allied services, too, have dominated this recession-proof industry. If an astrologer has asked you to undergo some religious rituals for better fortunes then some apps help you do that too.
“For instance, an astrologer informs someone that they are under the influence of “Kaal Sarp Dosh”, requiring an individual to undergo a Kaal Sarp Dosh ritual priced at INR 3,000. Subsequently, the same individual discovers on the VAMA app that every 15th of the month, a group Kaal Sarp Dosh puja takes place in a revered temple, and the cost for participation is only INR 700,” said Mannu Jain, the cofounder of VAMA.
On the astrology front, some apps provide you with a list of astrologers, who charge anywhere from INR 5 a minute to INR 50 a minute to read birth charts (kundali). Such startups are now bringing astrologers online, expanding their scope of work.
Stars Of Spiritual Tech Players Are Shining Brightly?
While still in its infancy, startups in the spiritual tech space are showing promising growth. Take, for example, Astrotalk, a startup specialising in online astrology services, which recently reported an almost twofold increase in revenues for FY23, reaching INR 282 Cr, with profits surging fourfold YoY to INR 27 Cr.
Sources suggest that the startup is on the brink of concluding a $30 Mn Series B round led by a global private equity fund.
The cofounder of Astrotalk told Inc42 that the company currently commands an 80% market share in the astrology tech space and is experiencing rapid growth.
“In terms of the number of users, we have grown about two and a half times. In terms of revenues, we would have grown similarly. Our daily transacting user and monthly transacting user base would have grown similarly,” Jain said.
Astrotalk, which boasts of 2-2.5 Lakh transacting users every month, aspires to get listed by 2026, we were told.
Meanwhile, VAMA’s Jain said that the startup is in final talks to raise $2-2.5 Mn in a seed round. VAMA boasts an annual revenue run of $1 Mn.
“This is the only space where people will burn a lot of money. This is a highly monetisable space,” the VAMA cofounder said.
With profitability not a challenge for these players, the impressive user stickiness adds to their shimmer. Astrotalk, for instance, claims that 80% of its revenues come from repeat customers.
Interestingly, the spiritual tech space is getting a massive boost from young individuals in the age group of 25-35 years. Also, a substantial number of NRIs have turned to these apps to stay connected with their culture and faith. There is also a huge chunk of Non-Resident Indians ( NRIs) who have turned to India’s spirituality-focussed apps to stay connected to the temples, astrologers, and priests of their choice.
“Temples are not just places of worship but also centres for guidance and wisdom. Many people seek solace, blessings, and advice from temple priests. Online consultations, through video calls or chat services, have become an alternative for people who are unable to visit temples in person,” said Giresh Vasudev Kulkarni, the founder of Temple Connect app.
Festive Season Spurs The Growth
Being the land of devotion, India has started witnessing a rise in the number of individuals using spiritual tech apps around the festive season. Technology has however removed many barriers when it comes to observing the traditional spiritual practices leading to a particular increased demand during the festive season. VAMA app recently livestreamed the historic Red Fort, Delhi Ram Leela on its app during Dussehra.
“We also provide daily predictions during the festive period. We have seen good traction with regards to e-puja, and this segment has grown by about 70%,” Jain of the VAMA app said. He added that the startup also organises specific Durga puja rituals and livestreams religious events.
Echoing similar sentiments, Kulkarni of Temple Connect said that e-pujas gain a lot of traction during the festive season.
“E-pujas allow devotees to request specific pujas to be conducted on their behalf, with priests performing the rituals using video conferencing platforms,” he said.
Meanwhile, the cofounder of Astrotalk said that although the demand for online astrologer consultations does not see any significant spike during the festive season, e-pujas are fetching the platform a monthly revenue of INR 25 Lakh.
Peering Into The Crystal Ball
According to the VAMA cofounder, there was a time when Indian telecom operators raked in hundreds of crores of annual revenue just by offering astrology services.
“The market has grown manifolds since then, thanks to affordable mobile data and smartphone adoption. The market currently stands somewhere around INR 5K Cr and is only poised to move up from here,” VAMA’s Jain said.
Estimates of the cofounder of Astrotalk, too, are on similar lines. “I think it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry for sure. Mangalam camphor alone is an INR 600 Cr brand, and then we have ITC Mangaldeep agarbatti, which is again an INR 800 Cr brand… And there are INR 1,000 Cr businesses built on only products. So, the potential of the devotion market of India is huge,” he added.
Meanwhile, the cofounder of Astrotalk sees the company’s revenues touching INR 2,000 Cr in the next two to three years. “Following this, we envision ourselves going public,” he asserted.
While it remains to be seen which part of the aforementioned predictions holds going ahead, one cannot ignore the tailwinds that the sector is receiving right now on the back of tech advancements, digital inclusion, the country’s rich demographic dividend, and an individual’s quest for spirituality.