Why this astrology startup recorded a “dramatic” growth in consultations during the pandemic
Astrology apps have been gaining in popularity across the world. “Amidst the millennial self-care set, astrology is back,” The Washington Post said in 2019.
Not only millennials, but xennials and Gen-X are also inclined towards the “pseudoscience” for tips and guidance on career, health, relationships, and life in general — more so in the pandemic.
Bhupesh Sharma, Founder, AstroBuddy
Global studies and media reports indicate that online astrology platforms have recorded 20 to 30 percent increase in traffic during the lockdown as the future of humanity becomes increasingly uncertain.
India too has not been left behind.
Delhi-based, for instance, claims to have witnessed 40 to 50 percent growth in its app downloads and customer calls over the last few months.
“Astrology services are on a growth curve during the pandemic as uncertain times tend to bring out people’s worst fears,” AstroBuddy Founder Bhupesh Sharma tells YourStory.
Essentially, people are keen to find out when the pandemic is likely to end and to what extent would their lives be disrupted by then.
Bhupesh Sharma, an astrologer himself, launched AstroBuddy in 2018
Of course, there are no definitive answers that astrology promises, but given that it is the study of correlations between celestial patterns and worldly events, people are wont to expect.
“We saw a dramatic increase in calls as people started losing their jobs. When millions of people lose their jobs, what else do they have to discuss other than career and finances? Even on our app, we’re now doing 4,000-5,000 chat-based consultations per day with people aged between 18 to 50.”
In fact, the post-pandemic surge in demand compelled AstroBuddy to revamp its app and launch it with a new interface.
AstroBuddy features and how it’s different
Launched in 2018, AstroBuddy set out to popularise science-based astrological practices as opposed to propagating conventional stereotypes that tied astrology with religion. It wanted to “change the image” of an astrologer.
The founder, also a noted astrologer, elaborates,
“When people in India think astrology, they imagine a priest with a tilak on his forehead. As AstroBuddy, we’re saying that astrology has nothing to do with religion or poojas or mantras. We don't want people to get superstitious. Astrology is just a guided tool that lets people identify their strengths and weaknesses and understand the phases [of life]. Think of it as a roadmap of your life.”
Armed with this practical approach, AstroBuddy offers services like free daily, monthly, and yearly horoscopes; free birth charts (kundalis); matchmaking (based on planetary positions); traditional Panchang; and personalised on-the-go problem-solving on topics such as relationships, marriage, career, finances, children, health, and lifespan.
It also offers myth busters on astrology.
AstroBuddy recorded a 40-50% jump in consultations during the pandemic
Users can avail live chat-based consultations or on-call sessions with trained astrologers (over 50 to choose from) on the AstroBuddy platform. They can even get daily astro alerts on email or WhatsApp.
Bhupesh reveals, “About 70 percent of our queries are career-related. Most of the users come from Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Gujarat… places where people have high-end jobs and are concerned about their future.”
To democratise access to online astrology, AstroBuddy offers pricing packs starting from Rs 99 per topic (for live chat sessions). Calling packs start at Rs 100 (per 5 minutes) and go up to Rs 400 (per 30 minutes). Users can also enable AstroBuddy alerts as a monthly value-added-service (VAS) on their Vodafone connections.
Bhupesh says, “More than a million users have subscribed to our daily alerts. We have a revenue-sharing model with telecom operators.”
AstroBuddy does 4,000 to 5,000 chat-based consultations per day
Growth plans and online astro market
AstroBuddy states that there’s no “repeat rate” when it comes to astrology as a service. For instance, when people match their horoscopes for marriage or get their birth charts made, they don’t come back for the same services.
Hence, user growth can often be slow in this sector.
However, the pandemic-led paradigm shifts in consumer behaviour have given online astro platforms a definite leg-up. AstroBuddy plans to end 2020 with a cumulative user base of 2.5 million at a revenue growth rate of 20 to 30 percent.
It is also looking to add more languages (besides English and Hindi) to its platform and expand astro consulting to corporates, businesses, and “a large NRI population”.
AstroBuddy alerts can also be subscribed to on Vodafone
“We will be focusing internationally going ahead. There are foreign languages like Spanish in the pipeline. Our chat feature can be integrated on any website in the world, be it dating and matrimonial sites or job portals. Everyone can talk to an astrologer on a live chat window. We are looking at international websites for such tie-ups.”
In India, bootstrapped AstroBuddy has peers like, AstroYogi, , , GaneshaSpeaks, and others, in a fast-growing online astro space. The market has evolved so rapidly in the last few months that even independent astrologers have now taken to consulting over WhatsApp chats in the pandemic-induced ‘new normal’.
Bhupesh sums up by saying, “This is the initial stage of online astrology becoming popular. The sector has been very unorganised, but it will grow exponentially after the pandemic and can be valued at $10 billion per annum. In India, something or the other in almost every household is linked to astrology.”
And that, pandemic or no pandemic, is unlikely to change!