Worship the virtual way: Delhi startup VAMA leverages tech to bring spirituality, astrology to your doorstep
In the age of smartphones, social media, and ‘FOMO’, many Gen–Z and Millennials are seeing their stress and anxiety levels spiking. They are also inclining toward personalised astrology services to find answers to their questions.
To cater to this young generation, Manu Jain, Himanshu Semwal, and Acharya Dev founded Virtual Astrology and Mandir App () in 2020.
The Delhi-based faith-tech startup provides easy access to religious and spiritual services. The one-stop virtual platform claims to offer services, including e-puja, purna puja, online darshan, astrology consultations, face reading, Vastu, zodiac sign prediction, Nadi astrology, numerology, and Kundli matchmaking services, among others.
"Before VAMA, some devotees used to receive e-puja services via WhatsApp video calls that were not well-organised or followed a strict set of rules and regulations. With VAMA, users can now do any puja of their choice in any of the registered temples with complete transparency and proper guidelines," Manu Jain, Co-founder, VAMA, tells YourStory.
VAMA wants to convert the offline mandir ecosystem to digital via engaging, empowering, and habit-forming content-driven products by providing tailor-made solutions.
Initially bootstrapped with about $100,000, VAMA launched its Android app in September 2021 and has over 100,000 downloads. The startup plans to launch its iOS app by June 2022.
How does it work?
VAMA brings the services of India’s most iconic temples to the online medium, making it easily accessible for devotees from all over the country.
For devotees, priests in VAMA’s partner temples perform the specific rituals as per the booking, which they can attend remotely via video call, app, or website.
To date, VAMA has onboarded over 300 astrologers and 100 priests and has partnered with more than 30 landmark temples.
"By bringing pujas and darshans to the online medium, we are not only addressing the religious requirements of devotees across geographies and age groups but also financially empowering pandits," Manu says.
In fact, VAMA also provides training and infrastructure such as mobile and Wi-Fi services to astrologers and pujaris.
Manu is a seasoned professional from the telecom sector and an angel investor. Before VAMA, he held managerial positions at Paytm, Aircel, and Mydala, and had launched two startups — Carbun8 and Unpuzzleit.
Himanshu Semwal, Co-founder at VAMA, has over 14 years of experience in telecom marketing, business strategy, product innovation, and sales. His prior experience has made him aware of "customers’ mobile-driven traits," which he strategically deploys towards the growth of VAMA.
Co-founder Dev is a third-generation astrologer and holds a Master’s degree in Astrology from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Lucknow. He has over a decade of experience in managing astrology business for leading telecom providers in India.
The puja business
According to Expert Market Research, the Indian religious and spiritual market was valued at $44 billion in 2020, expected to grow at a CAGR of 10 percent between 2022-2027.
VAMA directly competes with, Sri Mandir, Guruji, , and .
The startup aims to eliminate geographical and physical barriers that may stand in the way of a devotee’s spiritual journey and enables them to do darshans from the comfort of their homes.
It provides users with an original entry slip from the temple to authenticate their presence within the premises during puja and darshan. After the ritual, users also pay the priest ‘Dakshina’.
While VAMA’s e-puja and e-darshan services start at Rs 500 and go up to Rs 100,000, its ‘per-minute’ astrology consultation charges start at Rs 100.
The startup has also signed a business-to-business (B2B) partnership with Jeevansaathi.com and contributes to its astrology portfolio.
"We are getting equal traction from Tier I and II cities, and the average age group of users is 18–25 years, of which 40 percent are women," Manu reveals.
Since January 2020, VAMA has facilitated over 500 e-pujas. Its app has enabled over 50,000 online consultations, growing at a monthly rate of 100 percent. Manu claims that VAMA sees about one-third of its user base returning to the platform within the same month.
"Our target groups are tech-savvy working professionals and Gen Z who find it difficult to visit a temple to perform rituals due to their packed schedule," says Manu.
Some of VAMA’s iconic temple partners include Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Shree Mangalnath Temple, Vindhyachal Devi Mandir, Naimishranya Lalita Devi Mandir, Shiv Mandir, Prayagraj, and Hanuman Mandir, Ayodhya, among others.
In April 2021, the startup raised a pre-seed round of $150,000 led by PointOne capital, the funds were used for building a minimum viable product (MVP).
In March 2022, VAMA had raised a seed round of $750,000 co-led by Huddle and 7Square Ventures. To date, the startup has raised a total of $1 million in funding.
Angel investors, including Kunal Shah (CRED), Varun Alagh (Mamaearth), and Ashutosh Valani and Priyank Shah (Beardo), also participated in the round. The startup will use the funds to bolster product development, introduce new service verticals on the app, and acquire new talent.
Moving forward, VAMA plans to introduce live-streaming of darshan and aartis and a feature to make online donations towards temples. By the end of 2022, the startup plans to broaden its services by collaborating with over 200 temples. It also aims to venture into international markets, including the Middle East, the US, and Canada.
All the consultations on VAMA are available in languages, including Hindi, English, Bangla, Gujarati, and Marathi.
"Faith-tech's online market share is less than five percent of all online platforms combined. We feel the space is extremely unorganised, and the market is big enough for all players to carve out their niche. Bringing even 10 percent of the users into the online ecosystem would be a significant accomplishment," says Manu.