Startups breathe life into India’s funeral services
You can never plan for death and the funeral process that follows is difficult at the time of bereavement. At a point where the family is supposed to be together grieving and mourning, they are instead caught up in arranging the logistics, haggling with the vendors and getting things ready for the funeral. What makes the process tougher is that most from the present generation do not know how to conduct the last rites and face problems in conducting it.
Addressing the gap are startups like Mokshshil and Anthyesti, who have ventured into the organized funeral management services – a category that is unorganised and unstructured with a number of local service providers.
Business of grief
In 2012, Bilva Desai suddenly lost her mother and her family was in shock. Her precious time went in searching, sourcing and arranging the funeral, organ donation, after death ceremonies, paperwork and performing the last rites. Suddenly she realized she did not have the time to even cry and say her final goodbye.
At that point of time she realized that there are so many like her in the country facing the same problems. It was her personal experience that led to Mokshshil.
Initially, Mokshshil started with Hindu cremation by providing funeral services with the help of telephone number wherein anyone could call them and book the services. With the support of website – Mokshshil.com, mobile application, and through social media Mokshshil today offers value added services. From booking a vehicle, to finding hospitals, priests, prayers halls, cremation centres, organ donation centres, etc is now available at the click of a button. “These services complement each other to serve our customers in the best-optimized manner,” says Desai.
Similarly Kolkata-based Anthyesti helps people organise funerals across various religions and communities. Hearse vans, embalming, mobile freezer boxes, specific community priests, shraadh service, catering, domestic and international repatriation of human remains, pre-planning of funeral packages are the services that the startup offers.” Being an emergency service we operate 24/7,” says Shruthi Reddy, MD and CEO of Anthyesti Funeral Services.
An electrical engineer by graduation, Reddy worked as a software engineer for nine years before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. “Life was very smooth for an IT Professional, but the thirst of doing something out of the box prompted me to take the big leap,” says Reddy who launched Anthyesti in March 2016.
For startups in the space, the idea of using technology to invigorate this industry is proving to be successful. “Nowadays technology has become a crucial part of our livelihood whereas for any situation we tend to go online and look for solution. I believe the online platform holds great potential and opportunity not only for funeral solutions but for any other solution,” says Reddy.
Similarly the self-funded Mokshshil clocked a turnover of Rs 9.86 lakh last year. “With a total of 11 full-time employees, eight part-time employees and five interns, Mokshshil has so far served more than 300 families,” informs 32-year-old Desai, who co-founded Mokshshil with her husband Abhijeet Singh in 2015.
Asked about the future of this industry, Desai said, “As more and more people migrate within the country, nuclear families increase, with a population of 1.3 billion and an average death of 13000 people every day, this will become one of the basic services in the country.”
The services offered by these online startups usually attracts nuclear families and professionals who have migrated within the country and are looking for more organised options during difficult times. “We are currently targeting mostly the middle class and upper middle class as potential market,” says Reddy.
“My biggest asset is my team which I feel is the biggest barrier to entry in my industry. It’s very difficult to motivate, and encourage a bunch of 12th class pass outs and graduates to serve the hearse van industry professionally,” she says.